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Automotive dealerships adapt to the new, post-pandemic 'norm'

Things are not back to normal in the automotive industry. Of course, normal in automotive is quite relative! Dealerships that performed best during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, implemented innovative strategies to help ease their customer's apprehension about purchasing during this pandemic.

To boost confidence, the industry shifted gears to expand its online sales experience. Offering ways for consumers to buy a vehicle and deliver it without leaving their homes is no longer just a luxury or convenience; it's becoming the new norm. Additionally, awareness of social distancing and regular disinfecting may be an expected part of the sales process for the foreseeable future.

"We were pleased with how many customers utilized our 'Touchless Car-Buying' offering," said John Chauvin, General Manager of Hewlett Volkswagen in Georgetown, Texas. "We delivered more vehicles in April than ever. Some as far as Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio," he said.

"As a Volkswagen dealer, our staff was able to reinstate some of the protocols that helped us through the difficulties that we experienced in 2015," said John Luciano, Managing Partner of Street Volkswagen in Amarillo, Texas. "Our ability to quickly reassemble our action team was critical to us getting the message out to our customers and let them know we have a program and processes to help them for service and sales," said Luciano.

Dealerships and manufacturers such as Volkswagen are also offering various deals to entice buyers back such as zero-percent financing, up to 72 months, as well as deferred payments and more.

"Even before shoppers visit our website, we adjusted our online pricing to ensure that we put our best foot forward," said Chauvin. "Aggressive pricing, combined with financing options that we haven't seen in years has been very beneficial for our customers," he said.

"It's all about consumer confidence," says Luciano. Here are some recommendations he offered dealerships that are looking to help put their customers at ease during these challenging times:

  • Start with aggressive vehicle pricing online.

  • Implement an online retail solution for your customers, such as, or Darwin Automotive.

  • Offer customers video conferencing, Facetime and video emails, and texts with platforms such as Zoom and

  • Promote the benefits of your contactless process on your website, in social media, and in your advertising, that allows customers to:

  1. Get their best new, pre-owned, and Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) prices online, right upfront.

  2. Obtain their best finance options online, whether they plan to purchase, lease, or pay cash.

  3. Get pre-qualified from the convenience of their home or office.

  4. Get a cash offer for their trade without having to visit the dealership.

  5. See what protection plans are available for their vehicle and how it affects their payment.

  6. Get shipping estimates, based on their distance from the dealership.

  • Get the word out about your services, hours of operation, and social distancing protocols.

  • Conduct sensitivity training with your staff so that they can better communicate with empathy to your customers.

  • Adjust and improve your process, based on the continual feedback that you receive from customers and staff.

As the industry continues to rebound, dealerships that fully embrace a new way of doing business will be able to offer more benefits to their customers and grow their business at the same time.

- Flo

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