SAVOY — Car dealerships can’t have their showrooms open, but that hasn’t stopped them from selling cars.
From online sales to isolation rooms, local dealerships have found creative ways to keep sales flowing despite the coronavirus shutdowns.
Under Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s stay-at-home order, dealerships can keeping making sales by appointment, and their repair shops can remain open.
“We are OPEN, NOT closed,” said Ben Quattrone, the executive manager of the Honda BMW of Champaign in Savoy. “We are simply on a modified staff and schedule that should be fairly unnoticeable to the client.”
Only about a quarter of his staff is at the dealership at a time, he said, to help maintain social distance.
“We have 72 families that depend on the business to pay their bills,” Quattrone said. “We have chosen to do everything in our power to keep groceries on their tables and their fixed expenses paid.”
The Honda BMW is also using a compressed air gun filled with disinfectant to keep all its cars clean. It also has an “isolation room” that in the past was used to give customers privacy as they finish up the sale process.
Since the coronavirus, “we have used it as a ‘no touch’ room where we can leave the paperwork and send them on their way,” Quattrone said. “We simply repurposed it to offer yet one more level of ‘touchless,’ if the client wants to be ultra careful.”
At the Bill Abbott Chevrolet Buick in Monticello, general manager Travis Fox said it has still been making sales by appointment, even if that means bringing the test drive to customers’ homes.
“We’ve been successful accommodating interested parties by taking vehicles to them,” Fox said.
He said the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 may be limiting car sales, but “anytime that there’s a challenge, we, as well as the industry, adapt and ultimately end up coming out stronger.”
At Napleton’s Auto Park of Urbana, executive manager Scott Brown said sales have improved from the initial dip.
“The community is starting to adapt to appointment-only sales,” he said. “They were down a little bit in the very beginning, maybe more than a little bit, but they’re picking back up.”
Like other dealers, Brown said every car on the lot is thoroughly sanitized, and loaner vehicles have covers on the seats and steering wheels.
It’s temporarily stopped its shuttle business, and its mechanics are wearing masks and gloves.
“We have 6-foot marks all over the place,” Brown said.
Test drives have continued, as the sales person typically sits in the back seat, but Brown said that with the proper documentation, customers can go for a test drive by themselves.
And he said Napleton’s has given back to the community, offering free oil changes to health care workers, and each Saturday, catering food for up to 60 employees from a local restaurant.
“It’s been fun working with the local restaurants,” he said. “The community’s pretty cool right now.”