• safe reopening of dealerships

Dealer’s Voice: Car Dealerships are Safe and Open for Business

TADA has created a series of detailed guidelines and protocols aimed at the safe reopening of dealerships.

Todd Bourgon By: Todd Bourgon September 11, 2020

Health and safety have always been top priorities at new car dealerships. Since March 15th, however, when some Ontario businesses were ordered to shut down because of Covid-19, health and safety became a more urgent and serious matter.

Since day one, the Trillium Automobile Dealers Association began to assess what the shutdown meant for its 1,100 franchised new car dealers (and their customers) across Ontario, and to discuss a plan for the safe reopening of dealerships.

Within weeks, the TADA had created a series of detailed guidelines and protocols aimed at the safe reopening of dealerships and to ensure the safety of their employees, customers and suppliers. More than a dozen manuals were written, utilizing best practices from the Manitoba Safety Association and automobile associations in Manitoba and Quebec.

The guidelines focused on drive-through service bays, test drives, vehicle disinfecting, social distancing, safe glove removal, payment transactions, and other dealership operations.

Once the documents were completed, they were sent to the provincial government to demonstrate dealerships were ready to safely re-open when the province decided it was safe to do so. Throughout a consultative process, Frank Notte, Director of Government Relations at TADA, worked with several provincial Ministries.

During the first six months of Covid-19 pandemic, it has been encouraging to see the spirit of cooperation and goodwill among the provincial and federal governments. This spirit can also be said of the leadership at each of the manufacturers, and industry suppliers who have demonstrated unparalled support.

National and provincial associations have never worked more effectively together as we collectively rowed in the same direction to help to combat this health crisis. The dealers of Ontario thank Tim Reuss and Mike Stollery, the joint leadership at the national association (CADA), for the role they played in keeping Ontario moving.

With our industry’s response, and our dealer network’s commitment to implement our safety guidelines and protocols, showrooms at new car dealerships were among the first retail businesses to re-open. (Service and parts were deemed “essential” and never ordered to close.)

Today, dealerships across Ontario are open for business, and customers can rest assured that they have adopted the safety guidelines and protocols to provide a safe shopping experience. Some new car shoppers have opted to purchase vehicles entirely online, and that option is available.

I am proud of our dealer network for its quick adoption of our health and safety guidelines, and diligence in ensuring that their workplaces remain safe and risk-free for their employees and customers.

At Don Valley North Toyota and Don Valley North Lexus (part of the Weins Canada Auto Group, which owns 15 dealerships in the GTA), a number of initiatives were put in place, in addition to the health and safety guidelines created by the TADA.

safe reopening of dealerships

These measures included the installation of Smart Desks inside the showrooms, where the customer and salesperson can sit at a table, six feet apart, and utilize separate computers to facilitate a transaction. Customers felt immediately safer using the Smart Desks.

Other measures introduced at Don Valley North Toyota / Lexus include a contactless service department, where customers can drop off their vehicle and have service work performed without having to step foot inside a dealership; outfitting shuttle vehicles with Plexiglas between the front and back seats while transporting customers; introducing Zoom meetings for customers (who wanted to purchase a vehicle from the comfort of their home); and introducing a flatbed delivery system, where customers can have their new vehicles transported to their homes without visiting a dealership.

“When we introduced these additional safety measures, our staff felt safer, and that immediately put our employees and customers at ease,” says Amin Tejani, vice-president of operations at Weins Canada. “Together, these additional measures have not only made our dealerships safer, but they have also made buying and servicing a car more efficient than ever.”

I would also like to commend the 40,000-plus employees employed at dealerships across Ontario. They have worked tirelessly behind the scenes to implement the health and safety guidelines and have done an outstanding job serving customers to keep all of us moving.

This column represents the views and values of the Trillium Automobile Dealers Association, representing 1,100 franchised, new car and truck dealers across Ontario. Write to president@tada.ca or go to tada.ca. Todd Bourgon is Executive Director of the TADA.