Auto Dealerships Driven to Survive During an Economic Storm
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There is an old adage that says what doesn’t destroy us, makes us stronger.

Deemed an essential business by Gov. Kay Ivey, car dealerships and their service departments have been steadfast in making the best of a bad situation during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Most of them have cut hours of operation; they have had to make a variety of adjustments to their daily operations; and they have been steadfast about finding ways to keep their employees working, whether with the help of the Paycheck Protection Program or by sheer will.

All of them reported a drop in car sales in the early days of the shutdown, but their resilience is paying off as most are reporting a rebound.

The Huntsville Business Journal checked in with several car dealerships to find out what it has been like riding out a pandemic in the midst of a massive economic storm, while most of their customers are sheltered at home. Their flexibility, adaptability and entrepreneurial spirits truly stand out!

Landers McLarty Automotive Group

Frank Williams, Executive Manager and Managing Partner of Landers McLarty Automotive Group, said they have an incredible business, so he feels they have an obligation to the community, their customers, and their employees to make whatever adjustments are needed to support them.

“I have focused more on how as a community leader, we can sustain the livelihood of our employees and protect their well-being,” Williams said. “It’s been an adjustment, but it makes you think about priorities which brings you closer to your employees, closer to your family, and it makes you look instead at the positives while forcing you to prioritize. If we do that, we will come out on the right side of this.”

Yes business has been off about 40 percent but he doesn’t look at it from a profit and loss perspective.

“Technology lets us create platforms that provide what the customers want, as opposed to what we want, and that is a plus,” he said. “I don’t focus on the negative. I am using the situation to look for ways to do business better for our consumers, and technology has allowed us to do that.”

If a customer doesn’t want to come into the dealership, they have a social distancing tent set up outside,” Williams said. “If they want to do it all online, they have created another platform for that. If a customer doesn’t want to leave home, they implemented a pick-up and delivery service to support that.

“Everybody is being hurt so looking at it from a profit and loss standpoint isn’t as important as what we do to adjust our cleaning so people feel comfortable coming to work; and making sure our actions as leaders help sustain people and their families.

“The national media focuses on the losses, but we have not made a single cut. We see a lot of positives with our employees stepping up. We want everybody to be happy and I think we have created what will be a new way of doing business.”

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