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Local car dealerships trying to adapt during COVID-19 shutdown

by WayneTimes.com
April 18, 2020

COVID-19 has altered nearly every aspect of modern society.

Each day, we’re inundated with information around the number of cases, the economic impact, as well as new rules and guidance coming form both the state and federal levels.

For individuals, it can be difficult to keep track of it all. For business owners across the nation, the struggle is even more pronounced.

Locally, restaurants have been able to remain open for take-out and delivery, giving some area employers an opportunity to continue to operate. However others haven’t been as fortunate.

Retail shops, specialty stores and dozens of other sectors have been told to shut their doors with little to no indication of when they’ll be able to return to standard operations. One of the industries hit hardest by the shutdown is local car dealers.

Once a staple of municipalities across the nation, these brick and mortar automotive dealerships have been fighting an uphill battle since long before the current health crisis began. With more and more shopping being done online, even major purchases like vehicles and luxury goods are now being sold via the world wide web. While many dealers have embraced the digital side of sales, there are still things like test drives and paperwork that require in-person contact.

Dario Hodge, owner of Tradition Automotive’s Newark location, says that he was initially forced to furlough his entire sales staff due to the shutdown. “As owners, we feel horrible about this and this was the toughest decision that we've had to process in our minds,” Hodge shared.  “We have great employees that deserve to work; and we really want them to, but based on current demand and the limited ability to actually sell a vehicle it’s impossible to do so.” While the dealership has now been able to bring back one or two sales managers, Hodge, like may local business owners, continues to look forward to the day his dealership and employees are back to full capacity.

One bright spot is that service departments were allowed to remain open, giving the dealership and several other employees the opportunity to carry on. Hodge says they’re taking every step to ensure the safety and health of everyone that enters the building. “There are so many things that we are doing that there is no way I could list them all out.  Everyday it seems like someone comes up with another great idea and we just go ahead and implement it.”

Although the shutdown has dramatically impacted Hodge, he says his thoughts remain on the rest of the community. “We are not the only ones.  I truly feel pain in my heart for the businesses that were labeled non-essential, the restaurants, the businesses that don’t have the demand, the unemployed workforce and anyone else that has been affected by the Coronavirus.”

Though we’re all hopefully traveling a lot less, the need for reliable transportation will always be paramount. At Peake on Route 104 in Sodus, shop employees were busy last week assisting the New York State Troopers with necessary vehicle repairs — another indication of why these service departments were deemed essential by the state.

Peake has offered sales customers video walk-thrus of vehicles and has even setup a “clean room” where sanitized vehicles can be looked at while paperwork can be completed through a glass partition. It’s all part of what many have dubbed “the new normal,” at least for the time being.

All deanships that we spoke with encouraged customers to visit their respective websites and Facebook pages for the latest information, as the situation evolves each day. Many are still able to do things like run credit check and get pre-approval so customers can begin the process.

While sectors like manufacturing and entertainment continue to plot a path forward, it’s unclear as to when we can actually expect a return to some sense of normalcy. What’s certain is that businesses are changing every day in an attempt to adapt and survive.

The key now is that we as consumers and community members continue to support them in every way we can, just as many of these local business have supported us and our organizations for many years. The impacts are being felt now, but this shutdown will have long-reaching implications that will likely resonate for years to come.

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