This is the time to over communicate with your staff and your customers, educate and train your small business with lots of free webinars and experiment with new ways to do business with your customers.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused such a disruption in everyone’s lives, and in this uniquely challenging moment everyone has to fight to stay healthy and to keep their business going, said Rhett Ricart, the 2020 chairman of the National Automobile Dealers Association.
“I feel the pain and anxiety every day,” Ricart said during a recent webinar. “Today we’re fighting this thing we can’t see, this virus… Who would have thought pickup and delivery services would be offered by so many auto dealers?”
As more people are at home using their computer to pay their bills and order their groceries, they also want to buy their products and vehicles from the safety of their home, Ricart said.
“They’re very much more adaptable and this will roll right into our showroom,” he said. “We encourage our dealers to make sure their online presence is proper and professional. A lot of work will continue online. This is diametrically changing the industry. Get your store up to speed because that’s where this is going.”
Ricart, the CEO and owner of Ricart Automotive Group in Columbus Ohio, spoke at NADA’s first All Dealer Town Hall Meeting April 16 as part of its Dealership Lifeline Webinar series.
Learning to adapt in these tough times is key, as well as searching and applying for the state and federal programs available to help your business through these tough times.
While the federal Paycheck Protection Program was supposed to bring the needed financial relief to small businesses across the country, the initial $349 billion ran out in two weeks.
Thousands of small businesses were left out of the process and did not receive any money, or if approved, are still waiting on those funds to hit their bank accounts.
A second funding deal of $484 billion has been approved, which includes $320 billion for the PPP and another $50 billion for SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans to help support emergency loans. It also includes an additional $10 billion for associated disaster grants.
When it comes to auto dealers, NADA said in a statement it “continues to strongly advocate for swift action to replenish PPP funding and the broadest possible business relief to help dealerships continue operations and retain employees.”
NADA CEO Peter Welch said everyone is so busy under these extraordinary circumstances, but the simple mission is to help members continue to make money during this crisis.
“We’re already looking at proposals to jumpstart demand this summer,” Welch said in the webinar. “We’re working with the OEMs and equipment manufacturers as well to look at what will open when we start back up.”
As of April 16, 43 states had issued executive orders that allow service and sales, three states had bans on both, and 23 states had restrictions on sales. This is changing though as restrictions begin to be lifted depending on the state.
“Obviously we want to open the market up,” Welch said. “We fervently believe we have safe ways to sell cars online, while practicing social distancing. We want to make sure the credit markets don’t freeze up like we saw in 2008/2009. The good news is the banks are in much better situations than they were in 2009. The thing that makes this so unique is the health aspect. That’s the great unknown. It affects different communities and states on different levels.”
Luckily, the demand for vehicles has never been higher. People feel safe in their vehicles, and people need their cars to go to work and get their groceries in a safe manner, he said.
“This is a tough rugged bunch,” Welch said. “We will get through this together. Keep your head and chin high.”
NADA offers a dealer guide for safely operating your dealership during a pandemic here: https://www.nada.org/safely-operating-your-dealership-pandemic/.
Digital Air Strike has developed a suite of solutions that help businesses communicate and sell during the pandemic, including video, AI, social media, text messaging and automation. Many of these services are offered free to businesses. Learn more here: https://digitalairstrike.com/virtual-retailing.