COVID-19 Update: What the Virus Crisis Has Taught Dealers About Navigating the Recent Protests

By Desiree Homer

Dealers are building strategies to rebound from the economic shutdown due to COVID-19. And as owners and managers reflect on the past few months of uncertainty, its clear we’ve all learned a few valuable lessons. Now, there are new market conditions affecting many U.S. markets. Thousands are engaging in citywide protests, and dealers are faced with another potential crisis. Just in recent days, some dealerships experienced facility damages, due to local protests transitioning to riots. How are dealers expected to rebound and engage, post-COVID, and with community unrest? One recently damaged California dealership is sharing via social media. And it indicates dealers may need to apply a few of those lessons learned during Coronavirus, in this latest protest-driven environment.

A California Dealership with Busted Showroom Windows

Mercedes Benz of Oakland suffered significant storefront damages as a result of recent volatile protests. Videos were posted online that showed protestors vandalizing lot vehicles as a fire burned inside the dealership. The retailer began sharing its own videos this week as the staff embarked on cleaning and restoring the store. “Our family is rebuilding. We are part of the community.” There is nothing this retailer could have done to necessarily prevent the damage. But they learned the best response might be to be transparent about current situations and community outreach. In addition to this dealership, others in Oakland experienced similar damages, and in one instance, a Honda vehicle was stolen and driven through a window.

A Similar Response Strategy

California isn’t the only state experiencing mass protests. Similar damages are being reported in Seattle, Louisville, and Minneapolis. What dealers can’t do is sit idle or silent. Instead, consider offering sentiments of availability for any customers during this unprecedented time. Show support to the local community, without politicizing the brand voice. Use social media as a platform to share videos of rebuilding, working together, and giving back to the community. All of these efforts mirror much of the advice given during the first few weeks of COVID-19 induced shutdowns.

A Position of Preparedness

Depending on where your dealerships locations are, you may not be impacted directly by recent protesting movements. For those who do have locations in the heart of popular congregation venues, there may be some preparations you can make to reduce the risk of property damage. Maybe consider moving inventory off showrooms and into service bays, for example. However, there isn’t much any businesses can do right now other than brace for impact and prepare for a strategy for public engagement. Stay connected to the communities around you and offer support where you can to those who need it the most. These are sentiments you embraced during the virus shutdowns. This strategy can continue to be a best practice through the protesting environment of today, and any other social and economic conditions that arise in the future.

Tune into a recent Dealer News Today podcast conversation with South Florida FORD Dealers Association Chairman, David Menten. He talks with Dave Cantin about making a real and substantial difference during tough times. Finding ways to contribute and connect can be the lifeline to surviving hardships and emerging as a positive influence on the surrounding communities.