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Friday, 19 June 2020 15:20

Auto Dealerships Leading the Way on Safe Reopening

Written by Elizabeth Wulfhorst, The Two Rivers Times
 Vehicles at Circle BMW in Eatontown are sanitized before and after test drives and after servicing for safety.  Vehicles at Circle BMW in Eatontown are sanitized before and after test drives and after servicing for safety. Courtesy Circle BMW


As nonessential businesses gradually reopen around New Jersey, store owners can take a cue from car dealerships which opened their showrooms to sales by appointment only a few weeks ago.

“The safety of our customers and employees has always been and remains our top priority,” said Lawrence Powell, general manager at Circle BMW in Eatontown.


That is why the dealership has taken safety protocols seriously. Shields are up in the reception area, employees are wearing face coverings and social distancing, and disposable seat, wheel and shifter covers have been placed in all vehicles.


In addition, they established a test drive cleaning protocol and hourly and nightly cleaning of the building. The dealership is also operating with shortened hours.


Ray Catena Mercedes-Benz of Edison has taken all the same precautions.


“If somebody comes in, they’re not wearing a mask, we remind them to go back out to their car and get their mask,” said Doug Wells, general manager.


Wells said Ray Catena is using technology similar to iPads for completing and signing forms. Screens and pens are constantly wiped down and all paperwork is downloaded onto a USB drive for the customer to take home, so paper never changes hands.


Buying a new car usually means time spent going over all its features with a salesperson, from the windshield wipers and turn signals to the navigation system and any other high tech packages.


If buyers are concerned about being in a closed environment for a prolonged period with the salesperson, even though they will be masked and gloved, Wells said customers can opt for “virtual delivery”; once a car has been delivered to a customer’s home, a delivery consultant will review the entire car with them via FaceTime.


To make shopping easier, Wells said they moved much of their inventory to the front of the building and placed QR codes in the windshields so customers can scan with a smartphone to learn about a particular vehicle and even live chat with a salesperson.


Ray Catena also offers a digital online purchasing tool, which was being developed before the pandemic, but quickly implemented during quarantine.


At Circle BMW, Powell said customers can start the buying process online and virtually shop inventory, manage payment options and complete most necessary documentation from home.


Although showrooms have only recently reopened, most dealership service centers have remained open throughout the pandemic to meet customer needs.


“Our commitment to be available for our customers to repair and maintain their BMW at all times is paramount to our business model,” explained Powell, who said their center remained open six days a week.


“Our team was swift to institute safety protocols,” he said.

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