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Navigating the Post COVID Environment

Navigating the Post COVID Environment

July 10, 2020

As British Columbia adjust to the current Phase 3 of the province’s Restart Plan, we are beginning to see more and more of what the new normal looks like.

In the midst of what is typically the peak vehicle sales season, we are starting the slow return to some level of normalcy and recovery. In April, we saw new vehicle sales numbers crater by over 70 percent, but thankfully over the past two months we are slowly starting to see an increase in sales.

It is no secret that the past few months have been an extremely difficult time for virtually all business sectors, including automotive. While the vast majority of dealers kept their service and parts departments open to continue essential repairs and maintenance work, revenue from those crucial departments has been nowhere close to what is typical.

Now, as we move forward, consumers have made it even more clear that they want service providers they can trust, that can make them feel safe and offer support when so much seems to be overwhelming. As a result, we need to remain vigilant and continue to provide a safe, welcoming environment.

During this time, we are seeing many businesses and corporations reaching out – not in marketing or overt attempts to gain a competitive edge, but to offer genuine support. Initiatives that include payment relief and credit support may be critical for customers in the short term, and the impact will build positive relationships that are bound to last long after the crisis has ended. It makes me relieved to see so much good come out of a very challenging situation.

Customers’ normal patterns of life have shifted remarkably in the last few months. Simple activities like a trip to the grocery store or dining out with friends have been impacted. As a result, digital delivery has become a necessity for many customers, even among the most “digitally resistant” customers. In our world, companies that can make a positive impact by picking up and dropping off vehicles for repair and maintenance will have a positive impact. The same applies to dealers that can increasingly offer customers a choice of how much or little of the car searching, car appraising and car buying process they want to conduct online. I am thrilled to see so many dealers adapting to these needs to ensure safety for customers and employees alike.

The COVID-19 crisis will end at some point and while consumer preferences and business models will likely outlast the immediate crisis, it’s important to recognize that as they become acclimatized to new digital and remote models of service, it will accelerate behavior shifts that were already underway before the crisis.

Blair Qualey is President and CEO of the New Car Dealers Association of BC. You can email him at bqualey@newcardealers.ca.

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