How local car dealerships are adapting to COVID-19

CLOVIS, Calif. (KFSN) -- The local car industry has seen a dramatic slowdown since the pandemic began.

While most service departments remain open, many sales reps are no longer allowed to sell cars.

Service visits and car sales are down 40% at Hedrick's Chevrolet in Clovis.

But co-owner Brett Hedrick isn't stressing out yet, he's too busy adapting to the constantly changing car industry during COVID-19.

"We make appointments with people, we try to do as much online or on the phone as we can. We minimize the amount of time they spend at the dealership," says Hedrick.

According to a study by True Car Incorporated, April car sales in the US are expected to be about 50% lower than April of 2019.

Since social distancing and constant disinfecting is the new norm, the Hedrick's service and parts department has entirely changed the way customers drop off their cars and trucks.

The minute they pull up, they are given specific instructions.

"All the windows down, all the vents on... and then the customer stays with their vehicle until the very last minute. Then they come in and sign their paperwork," says Hedrick.

Although a dramatic drop in revenue has stopped many dealerships from advertising, Hedrick says he's just marketing less for more ethical reasons.

"That part of me is the hard part where I have to say, 'You know what, I shouldn't be enticing people to come in'. We should be enticing people to stay home, that's the message across the entire United States. Stay home," he says.

If buying a car is a necessity, dealerships are happy to help. But if you already have a car that runs fine and are looking to upgrade, many local leaders say it's a non-essential need that can wait until after the shelter in place order has ended.

Every car dealership is doing things a little bit differently based on their situation. Some employees who are still reporting to work are taking on jobs they've never done, like cleaning and sanitation. Sales are slow but dealerships are hoping once they reopen, they will be busy again with a lot of anxious buyers.
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