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‘The wave of the future’: COVID-19 forces car dealers to get ahead of the online sales curve

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(WBNG) -- For car dealerships, the budding leaves on the trees traditionally bring a substantial bump in business, but the spring of 2020 is no normal spring season.

Michael Corey, President of Jack-Sherman Toyota, says sales are down 70 percent.

Mark Gaeta, CEO of Matthews Auto Group, says April sales are down 65 percent.

While both dealers say sales may be down and having to layoff employees has been particularly difficult, there is a small silver lining.

"We did a lot of online sales before but I think this is just going to increase the amount that we do," Corey says. "That's the wave of the future."

The rapid switch to online sales is forcing many dealerships to get online, a process Gaeta says was inevitable. Now his dealership is using it as a chance to get ahead of the curve.

"We're taking the opportunity to learn as much as we can from this and a lot of what we're learning we're going to take forward," he said.

The idea is to make the process as contact free as possible.

"We have our sales staff available by phone and the website is obviously open 24/7 that's our virtual showroom," Gaeta says. "We also have the ability to do the credit applications right online"

Dependable Auto Sales of Binghamton says they too offer online sales if customers are in need of a vehicle.

President Rick Jindra says his main concern is everyone stay safe and only shop if necessary. But he acknowledges there is something missing from the traditional process of buying a car when doing it online.

"Normally people are out on the lot and we go and say 'hi' and they test drive it, but that's really the hard part now, they can't drive it," he said.

Mark Gaeta says that with tradition set aside and losses taken into account, car dealerships do have something to gain from this period.

"The worst thing you can do is not learn anything from what we're going through and come out the other side thinking you're going to do business the same way," he says.

Jack Arpey

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