‘Stronger than before,’ car dealerships aim to ride out the pandemic

Business News

PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — While it’s still unclear how long the world health crisis will continue, companies small and large are experiencing change. Experts say car sales may never be the same again.

Illinois’ Governor J.B. Pritzker issued a stay-at-home order in March. It requires car dealership showrooms to be closed and salesmen cannot approach shoppers on the lot. Scherer Mazda’s owner said service is open; however, deals are done by appointment only.

“We are still washing the vehicles,” said Jim Scherer. “We’re sanitizing vehicles, especially the touchpoints on every vehicle.”

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Sam Leman Automotive Group is keeping its employees paid across nine stores in Bloomington, Morton, and Peoria.

“I believe that with all the benefits and help of trying to make sure everyone is being paid at this time, I do believe that they feel appreciated,” said Clinton Leman, the General Sales Manager at BMW Peoria. “So our hope and our goal is that after this pandemic is over that we’re going to come out stronger than before.”

Scherer Mazda said car sales are down drastically.

“Car sales are down 60%,” said Scherer. “How do we handle it? We have half of our team is on furlough, so half of our team is on leave. We’ve got two… three full-time people in the showroom and they work staggered hours.”

Car dealerships are still open for business during the pandemic hoping to ride out the stay-at-home order to open fully again.

“It’s a difficult time for everyone,” said Leman. “It’s challenging and we’re trying to find new ways to adapt. We have a lot of sales staff that are trying to work from home to make and set appointments at home, which is unique and different for them. We do have tools that allow them to be able to work from home, which has been great.”

After the pandemic, Consumer Reports expects online car sales to continue. Many dealership websites are listing precautions they’re taking to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

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