Seems car distributors and dealers in New Zealand have borrowed from the Monty Python song, ‘Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.’
The coronavirus pandemic has shaken the foundations of prosperity, but the automotive industry people say they have quickly adapted to the new normal and will continue to throw open showroom doors.
But the meet and greet handshake and chatty closeness that has always been part of showroom banter has been shelved – showrooms have become no-handshake zones and sales staff and customers are talking business across the width of a large car.
The Giltrap Group said in a statement it is taking every precaution to reduce the impact of coronavirus, including rostering staff to “ensure we practice the required social distancing.”
“At this stage, our dealerships remain open with increased hygiene measures and an adapted customer experience model to protect us all.”
Same with the Armstrong Group. “We’re doing what a lot of other businesses in New Zealand are doing,” said its chief operations officer, former Mercedes-Benz NZ manager Ben Giffin.
“If we keep our staff safe we keep our customers safe. With things the way they are, people need their cars more than ever. We have to remain operational. We are doing everything we can. If we can help customers by delivering online shopping we will.”
Hyundai NZ is another following the Ministry of Health’s guidelines. “While we have always practiced great cleaning and hygiene in our dealerships, we’ve increased our cleaning routines, especially on high contact surfaces like counters, EFTPOS pads, door handles, steering wheels and more,” the South Korean brand said in a statement.
“We’ve added more alcohol-based sanitisers and we are encouraging frequent hand washing. We have increased our cleaning and hygiene practices.
“We are implementing working from home rosters and we have updated our travel, meeting and training policies.”
The general manager of the one of the country’s top 10 nameplates said his dealers are still selling new vehicles.
“We’ve told them to do everything they can to visibly let customers know our brand is doing everything to protect them from the virus.
“Things like cleaning with antiseptic wipes door handles and steering wheels and such in showroom or demonstrator vehicles; having hand gels available. All sorts or precautionary measures.”
But he remained ever the salesman: “What better time to buy a new car,” he said. “Bank money has never been cheaper; you can buy on tick for five years at the cheapest rate of interest ever.”
Meanwhile, automotive business planners in New Zealand are working with factory representatives on best-practice measures as the country – and the world – reels from the coronavirus.
A US economist told the Washington Post: “The beginning of economic wisdom is to understand that advanced economies, (including New Zealand’s) have stopped working the way they used to and won’t be returning to the old normal.
“This isn’t a temporary disruption – it’s the start of a completely different way of life. The best we can hope for is that the depth of this crisis will finally force countries – the US, in particular – to fix the yawning social inequities that make large swaths of their populations so intensely vulnerable.”