Judging when to reopen the dealership

  17 May 2020

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about how dealer groups seemed to be split between those that had fully shut down, including aftersales, and those that had kept their service departments open, either generally or simply just for key workers.

At the time I couldn’t find an open franchise retailer (of the correct brand for my car) in a 30-mile radius – for reference, that was five dealers.

Happily, I can report that after some emailing (rather than relying on retailer websites), my car is booked in for the end of this week.

And it looks like I’m not alone as a customer looking to find retailers ready to do business, given today’s news that click rates on Auto Trader are on the rise. Over the past week several groups, including Vertu, have reported increasing order take.

What this really shows is that shutting down showrooms and businesses wasn’t the difficult part of the coronavirus pandemic; it’s judging when, and knowing how, to reopen that’s going to be far more difficult.

It’s all very well for some customers to want to buy or service a car, but how do retailers judge the demand?

If you don’t bring back enough staff, you risk losing business because customers will go elsewhere. Bring back too many furloughed staff and you’re losing money.

With margins so slim in auto retail, this is never going to be an easy job. Even with the best systems in place to monitor interest, it will be a serious challenge, and some businesses will suffer (even more than they have so far).

However, as a customer, I can give one tip. If you want to increase demand, then you’re going to have to let people know you’re open for business.

As a start, if your website still says you’re closed, maybe it shouldn’t. Even if you’re only open for limited business, say so; I doubt many customers will do what I did and double-check that the website is correct.

Tristan Young

Editorial Director

Auto Retail Network

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