Enhancing Communications, Connecting with Routine Services Will Be Key

While uncertainty lingers about when and how restrictions surrounding the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic will begin to ease, car dealerships and automotive shops should already be brainstorming ways to bring in customers.

In California, as Gov. Gavin Newsom and local governments begin to map out how an eventual reopen will look, discussions are centering on opening retail as soon as May and other businesses in June and into the fall, according to the Los Angeles Times.

For the automotive industry, one of the hardest hit industries nationwide, that timeline means work should begin now contacting customers, setting up appointments, and brainstorming ways to attempt recovering from a dismal first quarter.

Here are four areas that dealerships and automotive shops should be focusing on in the weeks leading up to a re-open and moving forward afterward:

1. Utilize Business Development Departments

SCL Customer Solutions Specialist Don Parker, who has spent the past 40 years in various roles in the automotive industry, believes any traction dealerships and shops experience will demand communicating to current and prospective customers what they need.

“You have to find ways to get people in the door,” Parker said. “That doesn’t have to mean services that break the bank. We’re talking timely and relevant services that you can do to help customers whose cars have been sitting for the past two months or more.”

That could mean a complimentary tire pressure and battery check, and then scheduling future service appointments once customers are at the shop, he said.

“Right now, you need to work on putting your customers at ease, showing them you have a service they need,” Parker said. “All these vehicles that have been sitting, they’ve been losing tire pressure and battery voltage. You can offer a service now to check those things, and when we’re on the other side of it those customers will know you helped them avoid a dead battery or another headache at a time when they’re trying to get back to normal.”

Filling service lanes will also, hopefully, create additional opportunities to tactfully and responsibly plant seeds on upgrading vehicles for the same payment or lower.

“Sales may not look the same for awhile,” Parker said. “These dealerships that sell 30-100 cars per month in the service drive, that could be something to focus on.”

 

3. Keep Sales Expectations Realistic, Focus on Service

When sales departments do come back, it’s essential that dealerships don’t expect too much, too fast.

According to Forbes, although a January forecast for new car sales from Edmunds.com predicted this year would match the record 17.1 million new vehicles sold in the United States in 2019, that is no longer the case. Experts now predict a prolonged slow down through the end of the year resulting in an estimated 15% year-over-year sales decline in 2020. According to an April 2020 survey by Automotive News, about two-thirds of auto dealers estimate that number to be 20%.

Despite a potential frenzy to make up first-quarter profits, Parker said, dealerships should move slowly and think out of the box, possibly by starting contactless pick-ups, appointment-only contact with sales representatives, and so on.

“Once they decide ‘OK, we’re going to start opening the economy and car dealerships are going to be allowed to do business again,’ I think it’s important that car dealerships recognize the environment they are in,” Parker said. “That could mean wearing masks, maintaining social distancing, allowing customers to drive cars without someone with them, maybe even take the cars home and bring them back. The businesses who think outside the box are the ones who are going to be most successful. This is not going to be a race.”

The Automobile News survey also showed that dealership owners now believe only about 21% of profitable growth will come from new and used vehicle sales following the coronavirus.

 

3. Enhance Online Shopping Experiences

In the second week of April, for the first time since the coronavirus hit the United States, the number of visitors to Cars.com increased by over 10% and leads to national dealerships have grown 15%.

That not only means consumers are begin to move toward car buying behavior again; it also means they are turning to the Internet prior to visiting a dealership, which Parker says is nothing new.

“People already do their shopping online, that won’t change,” Parker said. “What may need to change is the attention that dealerships put on that mode of shopping. If people can find what they need and get approved for an interest rate beforehand, reducing the time they spend at a dealership, that could make a direct impact to sales as we begin to ease back into our normal.”

Especially with uncertainty surrounding when businesses will reopen or when consumers will begin buying cars again, providing the option to shop from home is critical.

 

4. Protect Employees and Customers First

The most paramount consideration once sales departments re-open and service lanes begin to pick up should be the safety of employees and customers.

“You have to be able to put your customers at ease, and that means instituting ways to protect your people and protect them,” Parker said. “Social distancing procedures, wiping off cars after passenger drop offs and then again prior to pickups, seeing customers by appointment when it comes to car sales, all of that will need to be figured in.”

 

Regardless of what approaches or new strategies dealerships and shops take as restrictions lift, Parker said, one thing is for sure: “you’re going to see a lot of cars out there that need to be sold. We’re hearing offers like 0% interest for 84 months, three months with no payment. The dealerships that accept this environment is not going to just go away, the ones who take measures to adapt, those are the ones who will come out of this successful.”

Being creative, he said, is also vital. Considering measures like priority hours or promotions for first responders and healthcare workers could go a long way in not only instilling confidence but also connecting with the community.

 

Contact an SCL Consultant today 

In a wide range of automotive, industrial and commercial sectors, SCL remains steadfast on its commitment to product and industry knowledge, performance satisfaction and superior logistics. We protect and optimize the machines that keep our country moving. For more information on how we help can help with services including bulk purchasing or managing inventory, contact an SCL expert today.

 

The post 4 Ways Dealerships, Automotive Shops Should Prep for a Re-Open appeared first on SCL.

Source

Outside of School Shutdowns, California Governments and Transits Keep Moving

From first responders to public transit authorities in cities from San Diego to Sacramento, and counties from Orange to San Bernardino, SCL customers in municipalities throughout the state are continuing to operate normally aside from school closures.

A longstanding partner with the City of Los Angeles, SCL provides oils, lubricants and petroleum products for all vehicles and machinery used by cities and counties under contract; this includes products for fire department vehicles, ambulances, large engines, sanitation trucks, public transit, police and sheriff’s department vehicles, and any vehicles used by smaller departments.

“The majority of our customers are still working. Nothing is shut down – not even public transportation. On the contrary, they’ve all been proactive about placing orders for all of their supplies,” said SCL Contract Specialist Melissa Carson. “So far no one has had any issues getting anything they regularly order either, which is a good sign.”

 

WHAT’S GOOD IN MUNICIPALITIES

Most of what falls under municipalities are considered essential services, exempting them a mandate by California Gov. Gavin Newsom that has forced closure of thousands of businesses statewide.

As a supplier for those essential services, SCL is also permitted by the state to continue operating. Recently, the County of Marin went so far as to provide written authorization for SCL drivers to carry with them, designating them as essential. From a public service perspective, having ready access to supplies that keep vehicles and machinery for first responders and public works up and running has been critical.

“The departments we work with have thousands of vehicles and equipment, and they have a huge responsibility to serve the public, especially in a crisis like this,” Carson said. “To date, oil manufacturers have stated they haven’t encountered any issues with regard to the coronavirus (COVID-19) that impact their ability to support North America, which is good for everyone. The City of Los Angeles alone has 185 locations, so that impacts a lot of people.”

There are other types of supplies that municipalities have reported shortages of – including personal protection equipment – but orders of oil, lubricants and petroleum have not experienced any reported shortage to date.

 

WHAT’S CONCERNING AMONG MUNICIPALITIES

As with most industry sectors, a driving concern among city and county government officials has been the protection of its employees. According to Carson, many SCL customers have come up with creative ideas to keep people working while maintaining health, such as additional shifts that reduce the number of employees working at a time and the closure of public offices.

“One municipality we work with, for example, went from having 1-2 shifts to now having 3-4 shifts and they’ve opened hours on the weekends,” Carson said. “I think they’re trying to think outside the box, dispersing people throughout the day so they’re not as in close proximity to each other.”

According to the Orange County Register, although some police departments have closed their station doors to the public, they are continuing to respond to emergency calls. “We’re still providing the service. We’re just adapting new ways to do them (including phone and online services) and trying to limit unnecessary contact,” Fullerton Police Sgt. Eric Bridges told the newspaper.

SCL has also adopted measures aimed at limiting contact with customers, particularly at cardlock fueling stations used by a vast number of employees from municipalities throughout the state. Cardless Swipe, an app that allows drivers to conduct all transactions electronically, is offered at many stations as an alternative to coming in contact with an attendant or having to keep track of physical receipts.

Other local government offices have followed suit by closing their doors to the public, but according to Carson, jobs have not been affected. “So far, we haven’t had any of our customers experience furlough. I know it’s happening in other places, but not among any of the people we’re servicing,” she said. “The customers in our area are busy and they’re needed.”

 

OPPORTUNITIES IN THE MUNICIPAL SECTOR

The greatest opportunity in the municipal sector as far as SCL coverage goes has to do with the availability of supplies.

“We often fill gaps among customers that may have existing contracts with other suppliers,” Carson said. “We are always happy to offer support, even when it comes to products or equipment that may be outside our wheelhouse. We want to do our part to make sure our cities and counties have everything they need to provide their essential services to the public.”

 

Contact an SCL Consultant today 

In a wide range of automotive, industrial and commercial sectors, SCL remains steadfast on its commitment to product and industry knowledge, performance satisfaction and superior logistics. We protect and optimize the machines that keep our country moving. For more information on how we help can help with services including bulk purchasing or managing inventory, contact an SCL expert today.

The post Industry Pulse: Municipalities Continue to Provide Critical Services appeared first on SCL.

Source

In Response to State-Wide Coronavirus Shutdowns, SCL Customers Experience Mixed Results

After Gov. Gavin Newsom called for a statewide shutdown of non-essential business in California in light of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, many SCL customers in industrial manufacturing found themselves unaffected due to longstanding military, aerospace and medical industry contracts. Others, however, have battled to remain “essential” and able to operate, including breweries that have pivoted to producing hand sanitizer instead of brews.

By the nature of their business, many SCL customers are deemed critical – such facilities that produce components used by the military and supplies for hospitals – but a few, including some producers of niche goods, have been forced to close.

 

WHAT’S GOOD IN INDUSTRIAL MACHINING

The most positive news out of the industrial manufacturing sector is that most facilities have remained open and operating, even if that has meant finding new ways to do business – from staggering shifts and instituting remote work to creating new products.

“A good portion of our business is metal working business, and everyone there is operating because they’re either dealing with aerospace, military, government or the medical field,” said SCL Industrial Lubricants Consultant Mike Schulze. “We do work with some breweries where the tasting rooms and the restaurant facilities have closed, but they’ve been able to continue operations because they’ve converted their process to manufacture isopropyl alcohol.”

The shortage of hand sanitizer at supermarkets nationwide has caused the price of isopropyl alcohol to soar over 300% in recent weeks, Schulze said.

According to CNBC, “major distillers and brewers including Anheuser-Busch InBev, Bacardi, Diageo, Jack Daniels-maker Brown-Forman and others have launched similar efforts to donate or sell at cost the alcohol needed to make sanitizer under the World Health Organization guidelines.” In San Diego County, Stone Brewery, Kevlar Spirits and Ballast Point are all either manufacturing isopropyl alcohol or hand sanitizer, Schulze said.

 

WHAT’S CONCERNING IN INDUSTRIAL MANUFACTURING

While many San Diego businesses are tied to government contracts that some say could result in increased business in the near future, that is not the case for all; SCL customers whose brands stand on producing niche goods like guitars, golf equipment and recreational gear are closed.

According to the National Association of Manufacturers, those that have managed to remain open are also “grappling with disruptions to their businesses due to the COVID-19 outbreak, with many anticipating financial and operational consequences.” The organization, which has called on the federal government to further equip manufacturers to handle the coronavirus epidemic, has reported that over 78% of businesses anticipate a financial impact.

In the same vein, there’s also some concern among leadership at companies across the board about whether employees who contract coronavirus can sue for worker’s compensation. “I think a lot of people, in general, are just worried about their facilities closing down and losing their jobs,” Schulze said.

 

OPPORTUNITIES IN INDUSTRIAL MANUFACTURING

Two clear opportunities have presented themselves since the coronavirus epidemic hit Southern California for SCL customers in industrial manufacturing – the soaring demand for hand sanitizer and the potential to contribute to the treatment of COVID-19 with manufactured products, like gelcaps.

“These breweries and distilleries, they’re manufacturing isopropyl alcohol to disinfect their machines, their facility, and some are using it to manufacture hand sanitizer,” Schulze said. “That’s bringing in money and it’s a way for them to continue operating since it fits with compliance rules set forth by the government as far as providing critical operations.”

On the government front, opportunity also exists in efforts by industrial manufacturers rallying for provisions in a $2 trillion coronavirus rescue package they are hoping will exempt distillers and brewers from paying an excise tax on hand sanitizer production. Many manufacturers are also calling for adoption by lawmakers of a federal designation that deems manufacturing supply chains “essential” in providing supplies critical to America.

Until anything is decided or dispersed, however, SCL customers are falling into one of three categories – those who are operating “status quo” due to government contracts, those that have been deemed crucial but have shifted practices to keep their doors open, and those that are currently closed and waiting for news on when they can reopen.

 

Contact an SCL Consultant today 

In a wide range of automotive, industrial and commercial sectors, SCL remains steadfast on its commitment to product and industry knowledge, performance satisfaction and superior logistics. We protect and optimize the machines that keep our country moving. For more information on how we help can help with services including bulk purchasing or managing inventory, contact an SCL expert today.

 

The post Industry Pulse: Industrial Manufacturing Facilities Battle to Remain “Essential” appeared first on SCL.

Source

SCL Partners Report Little Disruption to Projects Currently Under Way

In the days following a state mandate by California Gov. Gavin Newsom that non-essential businesses close in an effort to minimize impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19), SCL customers reported little disruption to construction projects.

The Association of General Contractors of America (ACG) has stated it is closely monitoring the epidemic, as well as government measures aimed at lessening the virus’ impact, but it has yet to provide any recommendations on stopping projects.

On the contrary, the organization has petitioned the federal government to recognize construction as an essential business, especially after a list of “critical infrastructure” industries released by the Department of Homeland Security failed to include it.

While states have been encouraged to use the DHS list as a guideline when considering state and local COVID-19 responses, it is not tied to any federal mandate. As such, construction projects have continued to move – even those directly tied to the federal government.

WHAT’S GOOD IN CONSTRUCTION

According to SCL Fuels Specialist Keith Kerslake, dirt moving right now is on projects bid anywhere from 6-9 months ago.

“These projects have already been planned, there are already commitments that have been made and deadlines that have been set. I’ve seen no one winding down,” Kerslake said. “One of our larger partners is still working on a project that will go for three years, and they’ve given no indication they weren’t moving forward with that. Everything on the table is still happening.”

According to ACG, only a “nominal number” of projects nationwide have experienced any delays at all, and those were largely related to the delivery of manufactured and raw materials. The organization has also reported the virus has yet to impact the work force or development of projects.

WHAT’S CONCERNING IN CONSTRUCTION

There is always concern related to businesses delaying or getting out of contracts that have already been instituted due to the delays in material delivery or shortages of labor, but that has yet to materialize.

The concern right now for SCL construction partners has to do with projects yet to be bid, that is builds and tear downs scheduled to start 6-9 months from now.

“If we head into a recession obviously it will affect monies to be able to go into investments, new construction, that sort of thing,” Kerslake said. “In 6-9 months, if we have fewer construction projects or deconstruction projects, we could see a drop in construction fueling and, obviously, fueling across the board.”

OPPORTUNITIES IN CONSTRUCTION

Right now, SCL partners are focused on business as usual, but that doesn’t mean customers are necessarily searching for acquisition or other investment opportunities.

According to Kerslake, although it’d be a great time for any business to consider expanding, like other industries, construction partners are more or less in a wait-and-see mode.

“Anything new, new customers, new commitments, existing opportunities, people are probably not going to make a move right now until we get a better feeling of what’s going to happen,” he said. “They may have plans, but it doesn’t feel like anyone is going to commit right now.”

How that will affect projects moving into the fall, when contracts currently being executed come to an end, remains to be seen.

 

Contact an SCL Consultant today 

In a wide range of automotive, industrial and commercial sectors, SCL remains steadfast on its commitment to product and industry knowledge, performance satisfaction and superior logistics. We protect and optimize the machines that keep our country moving. For more information on how we help can help with services including bulk purchasing or managing inventory, contact an SCL expert today.

The post Industry Pulse: Construction Industry Keeps Moving Amid Coronavirus appeared first on SCL.

Source

With Sales Down, Dealerships and Shops Reduce Staff, Expenses to Remain Open

Although some SCL partners reported a spike in new car sales immediately following a move by the Federal Reserve slashing interest rates to nearly 0%, most in the industry are relying heavily on their service departments to carry them through the coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemic.

On top of economic uncertainty, efforts to social distance – and stay home altogether – have  all but forced many dealerships to lay off sales staff and cut positions in other departments beginning in mid-March.

WHAT’S GOOD IN AUTOMOTIVE

Although the news is mostly disparaging – from disruptions in supply chains to a dramatic fall in sales – service facilities are still operating. For now, according to SCL Customer Solutions Specialist Don Parker, that’s a win.

To keep from closing their doors altogether, dealerships and independent shops have laid off staff, reduced hours, and in some cases decreased the number of technicians in their service departments. Those measures, although unfavorable, have allowed doors to remain open and work to continue.

“People are still bringing their cars in for service, whether that be for repairs or maintenance,” Parker said. “And these guys will continue working as long as they can and as hard as they can. That’s the way of the automotive industry – you’ve got family run shops that have been in business for 30-40 years, and they’re going to continue to do whatever they can to keep business as normal as possible.”

WHAT’S CONCERNING IN AUTOMOTIVE

When customers are not coming on the lot, sales are not taking place. And when cars are not being used, service lanes aren’t as full.

Those two issues alone present the greatest challenges to the automotive industry, which relies heavily on service and parts departments for income. Even if near 0% interest rates were to bring customers in, dealerships don’t have as much opportunity to earn from financing and other hard adds like they normally would.

“Right now, you have layoffs happening, especially in sales departments. You have lower profits and you have the same expenses — including rent, which is pretty high at a lot of these dealerships because they typically have large pieces of property,” Parker said. “If this goes on too long, everyone is going to have a hard time surviving. If this were to go on for 90 days there are a lot of dealers that it would really bury without some support.”

OPPORTUNITIES IN AUTOMOTIVE

Right now, opportunities in automotive are limited, but if you have cash, there is always potential.

“Unfortunately, by the time this is all over with, people are going to be selling businesses for pennies on the dollar,” Parker said. “There’s opportunity for acquisition, but honestly I think most people are just looking for ways to minimize the impact. This will be a burden on everyone in automotive in some way, but there are opportunities to help minimize the effect of this over time.”

For many, that means reducing staff and hours, taking precautions for staff members who continue to work, possibly taking advantage of small business loans, reducing expenses and biding time.

 

Contact an SCL Consultant today 

In a wide range of automotive, industrial and commercial sectors, SCL remains steadfast on its commitment to product and industry knowledge, performance satisfaction and superior logistics. We protect and optimize the machines that keep our country moving. For more information on how we help can help with services including bulk purchasing or managing inventory, contact an SCL expert today.

The post Industry Pulse: Automotive Turns to Service to Carry the Load During Coronavirus Epidemic appeared first on SCL.

Source