A Brave New World
By Michael D. Schmidt
With apologies to Aldous Huxley, author of that title, the automotive industry—like all industries in these unprecedented days of “distancing,” has changed. I can still only speculate on the full nature of those changes, their permanence (or not), and how we’ll respond as an industry.
Several takeaways from March/April2020:
Blinding flash of the obvious: The automotive business will come back. Many of the new (and pre-owned) vehicle sales "lost" to COVID-19 will prove to only be deferred due to the outbreak. Better days are coming again for the auto industry and once most consumers are again fully employed and feel secure in their jobs, there will be a surge in sales and service business.
Maybe not so obvious: It will not be business as usual. The nature of the business will be fundamentally changed. There will be a marked shift to digital retailing in the immediate aftermath of the pandemic. The move to digital retailing, that has been developing at a glacial pace, is here, driven, as is so often the case, by events beyond the control of the established manufacturer and dealership power/ownership structure. Progressive dealership groups are currently implementing digital sales protocols as a means of survival, including online car-buying platforms, virtual financing tools, and remote delivery. Consumers of all ages are demanding it as a condition of doing business. (Even “latent digital adopters” like me are ordering groceries online!)
What: The move to digital retailing for sales and service will require fundamental changes in how dealerships are structured, staffed, and operated.For example, online pricing transparency will have to become standard practice, sales consultants will need to become proficient helping customers work with online car-buying platforms, staffing will have to be shifted to perform remote sales deliveries and service pick-up and delivery.
So what: Now is the time for dealerships to be preparing to go digital in a comprehensive manner. That means now is the time for manufacturers to identify best practices and develop protocols and training to help their dealerships make the transition in an efficient and brand-centric way.
What it means for us: We need to develop approaches and tools to deliver digital training and sales support that is quick, efficient, and comprehensive. We need to begin doing it now—preferably with the full engagement and support of progressive manufacturers and importers.
Pro-ActivePerformance has deep and varied experience in helping our clients to effectively communicate and build client relationships through digital media and skills. We are ready to assist with this current transformation and beyond for our automotive industry clients.