An Open Letter to Dealers In a Time of COVID-19

Dealer Principals, General Managers, My Fellow Automotive Retailers,

We are living in unprecedented times and these times will require strength, creativity, and faith.  Car business will have to make the necessary adjustments to thrive in the age of social distancing. Let’s not waste this opportunity to improve operations and consumers’ perception of our business!  

Below is the 8-step plan that I would implement immediately if I was a dealer principal or a general manager.  

  1. Have the owner/GM record a video message explaining what steps their dealership is taking to address coronavirus related issues.  Place the video on the home page, Facebook page and email it to the entire customer base.  
  2. Adopt digital retail so your customers can buy cars from the comfort of their home.  This means switching to ONE PRICE model. I don’t know how you can engage in e-commerce without one price model.  This also means putting F&I products online. Idea of digital retail is to eliminate friction and unnecessary clicks.  Consider doing away with lead generation forms. Transparency is better than collecting fake email addresses.
  3. Disinfect cars to calm fears down.  Your customers will appreciate it. Make it a part of your marketing plan.
  4. Change your marketing strategy but do not cancel advertising.  This is probably one of the worst decisions you can make. You have a great message and your customers need to know it.  For example, GM is offering 0% for up to 84 months. Other OEM’s are deferring 3-6 months of payments.
  5. Rebrand your sales department into a BDC department.  Let salespeople/sales managers/finance managers work/structure deals over the phone/email.  In these trying times, BDC is the brain of the operation and must be treated accordingly.  
  6. Adopt digital retail in your parts department.  Again make it easy for your customers to buy parts.  Vehicle repair is essential and your dealership must be in a position to provide parts to repair facilities, body shops, and do-it-yourself community.   
  7. Start pick up and delivery in your service department.  Whatever reservations you had before — get rid of them–this is the only way.  Adopt technology that allows your service advisor text videos and receive authorizations from customers.  Digital retail applies to your service department as well.  
  8. Instead of letting people go due to a slowdown reassign them to be drivers for home delivery and pick and delivery in your service department.  Do your best to keep as many people on payroll as possible. They will repay hand over fist when we come out of this crisis.  

Please know that we live in the most amazing country with the most creative and entrepreneurial people in the world and we will find a solution to this problem.  

Do not hesitate to reach out to me; my cell phone is 917-903-0312 and my email is

Let me know if there is anything I can do to help your dealership get through these tough times.  

Stay positive and stay healthy!

Max Zanan, MZ Dealer Services