COVID-19 Update: Offering Loaners Cars as Community Wi-Fi

By Desiree Homer

Dealers Help with e-Learning & Back to School

The primary topic of discussion in the news seems to be about getting kids back to school and doing so safely during pandemic conditions. It’s a highly debatable conversation with fierce enthusiasts in both camps, those ready to head back and those concerned about sending children too soon. Dealers are presented with an opportunity to connect with local educators to help students, families, and schools in any way they can. One Connecticut dealer came up with the genius idea of driving loaner cars, equipped with Wi-Fi to neighborhoods where children had limited internet access.

Schaller Auto World Connects Students to e-Learning

President of Schaller Auto World, Art Schaller, leads three stores in Connecticut. When schools shuttered a few months back, Schaller recognized there was a community problem with an internet connection. Several students weren’t able to access their classwork due to lack of connectivity at home. Schaller decided he could help by leveraging a few loaner cars he had, that had Wi-Fi technology built into the cars’ infotainment systems. It was a gesture that started as an idea and one car, that then morphed into a fleet of mobile hotspots parking all across the city. He coordinates his fleet of 16 vehicles, according to the school district’s guidance for areas representing students without internet and rotates through assigned parking spots.

Going the Extra Mile, and Getting the Extra Mileage

Schaller Auto Group made a name for itself in the local community as educational support heroes. And the mobile hotspot, loaner car program was actually working. Of the 1,000 or so students who started the quarantine without internet access, more than 94% were reporting for e-Learning after the first week of Schaller’s parking Wi-Fi efforts. The success in undoubtedly gaining more mileage with news coverage of his good deeds, and word of mouth about his program among parents and students. Each car features signage that says precisely what the car and driver are doing, so as not to alarm anyone who may come across a strange parked car in the neighborhood. But it also provided dealership advertising and a continuous reminder of the community support the Schaller Auto Group was providing.

Start Thinking Back to School, Even If It’s Not Happening

As the conversation about school this fall intensifies in political circles, dealers can be using ideas like this to carve out their local strategies for contribution. Some dealers fill backpacks with school supplies and give them away to needy children. Others have stepped up to pay up lunch account balances or provide free drive-by lunches for students and area families. Even if your state or region is unclear about when students are returning, or if they return at all, you can be brainstorming now for ideas and plans to help. Anything you decide to do will be providing community support, student success, and as a bi-product, you’ll be solidifying your dealership’s brand image as a helper.

President and COO of Russ Darrow Group, Mike Darrow, talks about community connection in a recent Dealer News Today podcast episode. He’s still doing Friday fish fry events in his area. As America prepares for school or e-Learning in the fall, it’s this kind of community connection that will keep dealers relevant and ahead of the curve.