Even as they are operating in a challenging environment where customers and employees are staying home and the rules of operation change every day, auto dealers across the country are pitching in and doing their best to help their communities weather the pandemic.
ON APRIL 2, 2020
By Abram Olmstead, NADA Digital Director Auto and truck dealers have a long tradition of lending a helping hand to their communities and dealership families as they rebound and rebuild after recessions, hurricanes, wildfires, and floods. “In every community in the United States, car dealers give back more than any other industry or profession,” said Tom Holcombe, owner of Little Apple Cars in Manhattan, Kansas. “I’ve yet to meet another dealer who is anything but civic minded, honest, and good people who do the right thing and give back.” That is certainly the case with the COVID-19 crisis. Even as they are operating in a challenging environment where customers and employees are staying home and the rules of operation change every day, auto dealers across the country are pitching in and doing their best to help their communities weather the pandemic. Here are a few inspiring examples. Giving Hope and Stability in New Orleans The Food Pantry of New Orleans was established in 2013 after Toyota of New Orleans transformed a building on their property into a soup kitchen. Now, another area auto dealer has transformed the Food Pantry into a drive-thru facility to get even more groceries into the hands of New Orleans families while maintaining social distancing guidelines. Troy Duhon, founder and owner of Premier Automotive Group is also the founder of the Giving Hope Foundation, which has gone from serving 3,000 needy families each month to handing out groceries to more than 300 families a day. The only requirement is an I.D. “I think in the midst of craziness, what’s important for all of us is that we have some kind of stability,” said Giving Hope volunteer Karl Frank. “And I think that by being here today is really providing some people with stability and maybe a little security with regard to facing the unknown that we’re all dealing with right now.” Getting Masks to Those Who Need Them in Ohio & Minnesota First responders and medical workers fighting on the frontlines of the COVID-19 outbreak are facing a critical shortage of personal protection equipment, especially face masks. Harrison, Ohio restaurant owner, Kevin Wang, turned to social media and created a GoFundMe account to raise $6,600 to help purchase 10,000 face masks for his local hospitals and fire groups. Within minutes of putting out the call, representatives from Tom Tepe Autocenter and Car Country donated the full amount. “We’re very happy to support the community that supports us. We’ve grown year after year and it’s because of the generous support of the customers and the community, so we’re happy to give back anyway we can,” Harry Tepe told Eagle Country Online. Similarly, Minnesota’s Allina Health asked the community to donate N95 or N100 health masks for it’ healthcare workers. The only problem? How to get the masks to the more than 13 hospitals and 90 clinics the health care system operates throughout Minnesota and Wisconsin. AutoNation Ford in White Bear Lake stepped in and offered up more than 40 delivery vehicles to collect and deliver the donated masks. Helping Local Restaurants in Virginia The restaurant industry has been particularly hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, enduring forced closures or having to switch to take-out only in many states and cities, including Charlottesville, Virginia. In response, the Umansky Auto Group is donating $250 for each car sold to a customer’s favorite restaurant. “For every customer that purchases a new or used vehicle at any of our five Umansky locations, we are going to donate $250 for each car that’s sold from now until the end of April, so we are hoping this does great financial impact for the restaurant industry that will help them for their families and their employees,” Umansky General Manager Russ Toll told his local CBS affiliate. Loaner Cars for New York’s Essential Personnel While several states, including New York, have designated auto servicing and repair as “essential” and exempt from shelter-in-place orders, Staten Island’s largest auto dealer, Island Auto Group, has voluntarily closed all of its nine service and parts centers and temporarily reduced staff across its’ 14 dealerships from 400 to just 60 employees. “Although New York State law allows service departments to remain open, Island believes that we must always consider the safety of our team members and their families. We also want to provide the very best protection for our customers,” according to a statement on the dealer’s website. There is one exception: First responders and other essential personnel who find themselves without a working vehicle during the pandemic can contact the dealership directly for assistance and a loaner car. “We started to offer our entire fleet of loaner cars, which is over 50 cars to any first responder,” Island Auto Group Owner Marcello Sciarrino told his local ABC affiliate. “It’s a great time to show how New Yorkers and Staten Islanders all get together in a time of need and make sure we take care of our most important people.”