What Dealers Can Do Where Sales Aren’t Permitted


At the end of March, the New York State Automobile Dealers Association (NYSADA) announced that dealers could once again sell, as long as they followed specific COVID-19 measures. NYSADA’s battle to grant dealers this permission is a story playing out across the nation as dealers grapple with an ever-changing landscape of coronavirus legislation. 

Continuing Essential Services

The gist of the problem is whether or not selling cars is considered an essential service. In states mandating shelter-in-place protocols, most will allow dealers to provide maintenance and upkeep. Sales, on the other hand, are seen by many states as non-essential and are therefore prohibited.

However, there’s a case to be made for continuing sales. Essential personnel, such as nurses, delivery workers, and first responders, need cars to perform their vital duties. Even those working from home could argue that their need to buy a car is essential as it can help them get groceries or get to a doctor. Under current restrictions, many of these drivers are out of luck if their car gets wrecked or their lease runs out.

Related: Dealers Helping Their Communities in Troubling Times

Navigating New Restrictionssales

Depending on locality, there are different steps dealerships can take in response to COVID-19 dealership regulations. 

Reconfigure for Remote Sales

In some states, such as North Carolina, dealerships are still able to sell as long as in-person contact is limited as much as possible. If your state allows remote sales, make sure to update your web infrastructure to make this process as clear and straightforward as possible. Consider creating a special COVID-19 sales fast-track portal for your site that allows prospective buyers to easily learn their options, find and sign documents, and arrange for a contactless transfer.

Even if your state allows for full business as usual, restructuring your online presence to better facilitate remote sales is worthwhile. Regardless of the law, many shoppers are wary of leaving their homes and giving them this option can increase their likelihood of buying. Additionally, after the pandemic subsides, there will be many more converts to virtual shopping who might also appreciate this new convenience. 

Focus on Building Connections

Dealers residing in states that have entirely shut down sales should use this time to deepen their connection to customers, through online interaction and targeted community outreach. Think along the lines of volunteering services to vulnerable populations, spreading positive messages over social media, or creating virtual walk-through videos. Strong social campaigns will help build brand recognition during this hard time so that when buying does start up again, your dealership is front and center in people’s minds. 

Add Your Voice and Stay Updated

Finally, add your voice to the many others asking for exemptions during this time. Depending on the state, some dealers may be able to get permission to open in limited capacities. In others, dealers can work with their local union or other groups to lobby for loosened sales restrictions.

Throughout the processes, stay updated on all developments. While waiting for an exemption or regulatory change, be aware of any new state, local, or federal programs, like the Paycheck Protection Program, which can help your dealership bide its time through the crisis. 

Related: How Dealers Can Support Fixed-Ops through the Coronavirus Pandemic

Did you enjoy this article from Chana Perton? Read other articles from her here.

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