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I have spoken extensively about the changes that dealerships have gone through to move to an increasingly online environment. This is obviously something we are seeing across many industries, not just in the auto sector, and something that has been accelerated by the pandemic.

This time last year, though dealerships were considered essential and remained open, we as an industry had to make many changes. Dealers needed to ensure that their online shopping platforms were updated and functioning better than they’ve ever needed them to – there was hesitation towards coming into dealers, though our safety precautions were comprehensive.

We saw dealers expanding customer service with delivering new models of sending sanitized cars and trucks directly to homes for test drives and having people do full purchases online. But this begs the question, is there a time when there won’t be a need for in person dealers? And I can confidently say, no.

In a world that is constantly moving online, it becomes harder and harder to get in person or over the phone contact – and this just isn’t good enough when trying to make a sale or trying to help a customer. Consumers still want a personal touch and they always will. I truly believe the personal touch is the difference between a good and bad experience, and it plays a huge part in retaining customers.

Dealers have always evolved in order to meet everchanging customer demands and they will continue to do so to provide the best customer experience. The best service is always the number one priority. Dealers will continue to evolve and adapt, but this doesn’t mean they are going anywhere.

Buying a vehicle is the second biggest purchase that people make after a home and they want actual people to help them make the decision. They need expert advice and that’s not something they can find behind a computer.

With the introduction of Carvana’s ‘car’ vending machine, I can see people questioning the dealerships’ longevity. While new technologies like this can seem exciting and cool at first, not being able to talk to an actual salesperson is always going to be an issue. When making such a large purchase you really need someone you can trust, and that’s where our dealers step in.

But for me, it goes even further. Your BC new car dealers are an important part of your community and they genuinely care. That’s something that technology could never replace. When the pandemic hit, it wasn’t just about making sure our businesses were operating – it was about making sure our communities were coping and thriving in any way they could.

BC’s new car dealers continued contributing to local food banks and other family services and community groups which needed support desperately. They provided delivery services for the folks that were unable to get around – dropping off groceries, prescriptions, and any other necessary supplies. They even organized meals for those less fortunate. They stepped up in their communities when they were in need, and they will continue to do this in the years to come. Dealerships are foundational to communities large and small in BC.

Technology certainly has a place in how we serve our customers, but it won’t be able to fully replace us. We truly care and always will.

Blair Qualey is President and CEO of the New Car Dealers Association of BC. You can email him at [email protected].