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How COVID-19 Changed Auto Shops and Dealerships

POSTED June 24, 2020

Due to COVID-19, every business that has direct interactions with customers has been forced to adapt for the safety of their workers and the public. For auto dealers and shops, these changes can include everything from small behaviors like eliminating handshakes to large-scale transformations with all virtual interactions when browsing services, booking appointments and getting a car delivered. Here are ways that shops and dealerships have changed to follow the Centers for Disease Control’s safety guidelines and recommendations:

Contactless service

In the past, getting a small repair may include sitting in a waiting area or taking a shuttle back home while a car was getting worked on. While this is still an option at many locations, shops and dealers are going the extra step of picking up and dropping off cars from customer’s locations. COVID-19 has changed auto shops and dealers to include curbside pick-up for any business that can provide it. One dealer notified customers on its website, “We will respond to any requests that help make you feel more comfortable.”

Car and shop sanitizing 

Because car repair was deemed essential early on, shops and dealers were one of the leaders in establishing safer practices for visiting customers. “Very early, some of our associates wanted to know what we could do to protect them,” CarMax’s chief marketing officer Jim Lyski told BusinessInsider.com. Lyski said that CarMax established a “distancing and disinfecting” protocol that included deep cleaning stores every day and sanitizing high-touch surfaces, sanitizing vehicles before and after test drives, and maintaining six-feet of distance between showroom customers and employees, following federal guidelines. “Our associates and customers are more comfortable now,” Lyski said.

Online car sales by companies

Just as grocery delivery boomed in the days and weeks following COVID-19 stay at home orders, online car sales and delivery has done the same. The car sales site Vroom.com saw interest and sales spike for its fully online experience of browsing, buying and getting a car delivered. Google searches for Vroom have increased more than fourfold, and shares of the company’s IPO more than doubled after its first day of trading. Carvana is another site positioning itself to become the Amazon of car shopping. “Direct competitor Carvana has unexpectedly boomed this year despite headwinds from the coronavirus, showcasing investors’ enthusiasm in the used-car e-commerce space,” wrote investment site seekingalpha.com.

The economic and health implications will be felt for months if not years to come, affecting all industries such as collision repair and auto dealerships. What we’re seeing today could become the norm in customer service and result in changed auto shops and dealerships for the foreseeable future. “The consumer’s behavior has undoubtedly been changed in a lasting way,” CarMax’s Lyski said.

While it may be a struggle to implement these changes for more traditional businesses, it’s also an opportunity to create new models that build and enhance customer trust, as Vroom has shown. Those businesses that adapt and make the transition will be in a position to succeed in the post-COVID era. 

Dustin Whitehead
Dustin Whitehead is the National
Sales Director for PartsTrader.

PartsTrader Team - AUTHOR