Area car dealers and real estate agents and brokers have been forced to change the way they do business to respond to COVID-19 precautions.
Tom Ahl, owner of Tom Ahl Buick, Chrysler, Dodge Ram and Hyundai, has been in the care sales business for 58 years and never has seen anything like the novel coronavirus.
“We are only operating on a very limited staff and hours to comply with the governor’s orders,” Ahl said. There have been enough people who want to purchase vehicles that the dealerships decided to be open with a half staff.
The dealerships are open from 9 to 5 p.m. weekdays, with two sales people at each store.
He said the dealerships started the month of March well. However, when the outbreak was announced,business slowed down to a trickle, according to Ahl.
“We sold nine cars Friday and eight or nine the day before. We have a lot of nurses and doctors come out who are working and need a car for work and need help,” Ahl said.
He said he predicts sales will be off 100 units for March between all of the stores.
Ahl said now is a good time to purchase a car because there is a 0% for 84 months and people can extend their first payment out for three months before the first payment is due.
Customers who purchase a new Hyundai are covered by a new policy. If a person gets laid off, the business will make up to six payments for the customer. Used cars are also available at reduced prices.
To adhere to social distancing rules, the sales area guest chairs are six feet away from desks and staff are cleaning the stores.
Michael Knippen, Knippen Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram service manager, Delphos, said the dealership started its first week of March with a lot of traffic and COVID-19 caused new sales traffic to slow down to almost zero.
“It’s tough. There aren’t a lot of customers out shopping and people are keeping their social distancing,” Knippen said.
Last week the business saw its service department start to slow down, but there were big jobs that are keeping staff busy. Service work was expected to slow this week, according to Knippen.
Staff hours have been reduced to 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays.
A part-time office manager was voluntarily laid off, as she did not feel comfortable coming into work with COVID-19.
Reach Jennifer Peryam at 567-242-0362.