In our previous communications, KADA has set out our view of the current ‘stay at home’ orders in place now throughout most of the populous eastern Kansas Counties and Sedgwick County (Wichita). Since that time additional direction has been forthcoming, but there is a building divide over what is allowed and not allowed by the issuing authorities ranging from passive to direct statements (primarily Jackson County, Mo.) about sales operations not being intended. We disagree on the basis of the language about ‘auto supply…and related facilities’, but nevertheless suggest that dealers have to change their business model for the time being.

Business operations must take advance measures now to ensure compliance with the so-called Social Distancing Requirements, including the following where possible:

  1. Designate six-foot distances. Designating with signage, tape, or by other means six-foot spacing for employees and customers in line to maintain appropriate distance;
  2. Hand sanitizer and sanitizing products. Having anti-microbial soap and water or hand sanitizer and sanitizing products readily available for employees and customers;
  3. Separate operating hours for vulnerable populations. Implementing separate operating hours for elderly and vulnerable customers; and
  4. Online and remote access. Posting online whether a facility is open and how best to reach the facility and continue services by phone or remotely.

KADA also recommends the following practices with regard to dealership sales operations:

  • Dealership sales departments should not generally be open to the public.  Instead, sales activities should be conducted only by appointment with appointments made online or by phone.
  • All dealership employees and customers who are allowed into showrooms must follow the Centers for Disease Control's (CDC) Coronavirus prevention guidelines.
  • Dealership personnel and customers should be careful to adhere to social distancing throughout your sales and service operations. 
  • Every effort should be made to serve customers remotely by picking up and dropping off vehicles, after they have been disinfected.

KADA has now as it did when the orders were issued continued to focus on what dealer operations were allowed to continue as ‘essential businesses.’ This also includes those that serve ‘essential businesses’ all as set out in the orders. As more information has become available it is apparent that normal showroom activity isn’t likely to be continued and considered essential. There is more to consider, as well, with the effect social media can have on perceived violations largely driven by activist opinion, so we urge dealers to be careful and modify their activities in the sales department. This is intended to try to provide some guidance in that respect. 

Since a common form of order is in use we can revisit the sales issue across the board. All orders exempt auto supply, auto repair and related facilities. While we contend ‘auto supply’ is clear and covers sales and leasing, some authorities may disagree with that. Since the orders themselves are nearly identical and were issued in domino fashion, you can expect such opinion to spread. Thus, we continue to suggest dealers pay attention to the breadth of social media and what it can do for you and against you in terms of how your business is painted as responsible or not and alter sales activities accordingly. 

Essentially moving your business activities to a more targeted audience and online or by telephone with a closed showroom sales department may be a way to effectively bridge your operations, but all dealers must make those determinations. There are online tools available to set up such operations quickly if you are currently limited which your information technology firms can assist, even remotely. 

Essential businesses you can support include any listed in the orders, such as:

  • health care operations. This includes people working for hospitals and clinics and their staffs. They still have their support personnel ranging from clerks to janitors, not just professional staff.
  • farm to market and food suppliers, stores selling it and non-grocery items, cultivation, livestock, including food delivery;
  • food, shelter, social service organizations;
  • media services;
  • residential support services, such a plumbers, electricians, exterminators, anyone that serves essential residential operations;
  • private transportation providers, such as taxis for one;
  • home based providers;
  • those engaged with essential infrastructure, such as construction, airports, water, sewer, gas, roads and highways, and telecom;
  • exempt personnel such as first responders, emergency management, personnel, dispatchers, court personnel, and those supporting essential business, including the government;
  • activities or performance of tasks by individuals essential to their health and safety, or to the health and safety of their family or household members (including, but not limited to, pets), or close personal acquaintances;
  • individuals seeking necessary services or supplies for themselves and their family or household members, or close personal acquaintances, or to deliver those services or supplies to others.

You should have categories in mind that you can document to support your claim of exemption status on a sale, though. It may mean logging the information of those you serve, though within existing rules on legal consumer information use and gathering. 

We suggest concentration on framing your efforts to fit these categories and others in the orders and redirecting your efforts to online work while still retaining the in house CDC guideline compliance on social separation, extensive sanitation of vehicles and facilities and the like. These are the key concepts:

  • appointment only, remote/online sales;
  • signage on your sales showrooms limiting your sales to those allowed to do business under the ‘stay in place’ orders and essential businesses in need of support;
  • concentrating on sales related to your service operations;
  • pick and choose essential businesses or individuals with them which you claim constitute ‘support of essential businesses’, to the point of using the order as a ‘check the box’, so to speak, for sources to identify as those you can support by sales in support of an essential business. 
  • seek to control the dialogue on social media criticism, by pointing out the community investment and how you are seeking to apply it in these difficult times in support of essential businesses;
  • set up purchase and lease transactions online whereby the inventory you are already selling and have set up can be purchased with the same portal;
  • set up online purchases for delivery, and set the transaction up much like a spot delivery on your showroom would operate, just remotely.

Empathy for the community is likely the best route to acceptance when many if not most are shut down. KADA is willing to engage in a dialogue with regulatory authorities when informed of situations which arise when we can. However, it is clear that operations directly in the face of the public are not likely to be viewed favorably, so this is why KADA suggest more passive sales activities.
KADA will continue to provide updates on critical legislative and regulatory measures as they become available. They will also be posted on www.kansasdealers.org.