Mazda managing director Jeremy Thomson and sales director Peter Allibon told of their optimism for the industry today (Mar 30) when they took part in our Car Dealer Live broadcast on YouTube.
The senior team from Mazda UK discussed with Car Dealer editor James Baggott what they’ve had to do since the crisis erupted and the steps they are taking to help dealers.
Thomson said this crisis was ‘fundamentally different’ to others that he had experienced, such as the recessions, but also ‘very similar’, adding: ‘We will come out the other end and we will be stronger and there will be a bounce back. It’s probably more a question of when, not if.’
Remote working and adapting to the technology had been a crash course for people but he said staff had risen to the challenge and there was a real sense of positivity.
Some 28 per cent of the network’s dealers have aftersales capability so can take breakdown recovery cars and can still support key workers with any essential work that needs doing.
Sales are now 100 per cent online or by phone, so it was important to ensure there were dealership contacts available.
Allibon said its dealers had been given ‘absolute freedom to make the right choices for their business and their people’. The financial health of the network as well the impact over the lockdown period was ‘a major concern’. A dealer support pack has been issued to give reassurances.
‘For now, it’s about making sure you’re available and accessible to customers online, more for the research phase,’ he said.
With the deputy chief medical officer now saying businesses may have to remain shut for six months, after some dealerships initially believed it may only be for three weeks, Thomson said it would probably be months rather than weeks, ‘and I would hope that’s of the three-month end rather than the six-month end’. And he said that they were now over the immediate peak of crisis emergency management, they would be entering a period of crisis normality, and ‘the gold at the end of the rainbow’ for him would be ‘a buoyant September’, although the planning for it and complexity was ‘huge’.
Dealerships are now running on skeleton staff, with the majority of them having been furloughed, and Thomson said clarity was urgently needed on including bonuses in furlough pay.
On the subject of how dealers should be talking to customers, he said they needed appropriate messages, advice and guidance but now was not the time to be pushing overt sales messages.
Allibon told how Mazda was helping customers who were on finance packages, including informal extensions, while Thomson said there would be ‘a degree of latitude’ concerning warranties.
Asked what dealers can do to look after their businesses to make sure they’re ready for the return, Thomson cited an example of a dealer driving 60 miles to deliver a replacement battery for a nurse’s Mazda, leaving it on her doorstep, to get her moving again. ‘That sort of commitment from dealers builds reputation, brand strength and respect for business way, way, way beyond anything you could do in normal social responsibility type work, so I would encourage within the realms of what can be done, with the current restrictions, that it’s these things that local businesses can do that will count in the months and years to come.’
And Allbion stressed that it was now ‘more about being available for the customers when they want to reach out to us, rather than necessarily reaching out to them with any hard sell’.
Car Dealer Live will be broadcasting every weekday, with the webchats available to watch afterwards.