Rebuilding America: Dealerships come back in sales, service – News – The Daily Herald


Car dealerships in Maury County and southern Middle Tennessee have been selling vehicles in May at nearly the same rate as before the coronavirus outbreak, they say.

Local owners and general managers attribute the success to online buying, fueled by home-bound customers who were flipping pages and pages of inventory on the internet.

Now they’re looking for high demand in their service departments with the Rebuilding of America and the state reopening.

“Two months ago, it looked like we would have a record year,” said Robert Rogers, general manager of Columbia’s Parks Motor Sales. “When the pandemic hit, fear set in. People were afraid to bring their vehicles in for service. So our service numbers took a hit.

“Sales recovered quickly. People can look online. When they come in, we had positive interaction with social distancing and masks. But we cannot serve cars remotely.”

Rogers said he and his staff stand ready for the service calls. He just wishes he had more inventory on the sales side, especially trucks. Auto plants have started reopening safely and ramping up production, but it could take a month or two before things return to normal.

“Our truck inventory is actually negative right now,” Rogers said. “Customers can come in and find the trucks they want, but there might be some situations where we have to order it for them.”

The Big Three automakers, General Motors, Ford and Fiat Chrysler, have been offering low interest rates and no payments for 90 days in some cases. So have foreign brands such as Toyota, Hyundai, Nissan, Honda and Volkswagen.

“The deals are so good, customers want to take advantage,” Rogers said. “Manufacturers have lots of incentives, and we’re trying to guarantee the same incentives, even if they order and have to wait a few days. Everyone, of course, would like to drive off in a new truck the same day.”

Trey McNabb, part owner and general manager of Stan McNabb Chevrolet Cadillac in Columbia, said community support has been fabulous since his family bought the dealership in December 2018. It has remained strong during the pandemic, he added.

“From the middle of March until the middle April, our sales and service were slow,” McNabb said. “Since then, the numbers have picked up, which has been great.”

McNabb said with a lack of some inventory, he’s not sure how long the incentives with last for sales. He recommended shopping now for either new or pre-owned vehicles.

“Supply is down drastically,” McNabb said. “We’re waiting to see what happens with the flow of inventory, especially with Cadillac.”

Eddie Collier, owner and GM of Columbia Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram Fiat, said May 2020 will be the dealership’s best month since he acquired the dealership 2011. Collier also said his Columbia Powersports Superstore will set sales records.

“The good dealers work hard in this time,” Collier said. “We know some people — some salespeople — might use it as an excuse. It has panned out for us because we’ve worked hard.”

Collier generally has about 700 new vehicles in Columbia, including popular Ram trucks and Jeep Wranglers. In late February, Collier asked for more inventory from manufacturers.

“We rolled the dice, and it has paid off for us,” Collier said. “It’s good to have the inventory when you need it. We have a lot of Rams and Wranglers, which are our bread and butter.”

Columbia Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram Fiat was sponsor of Strive to Drive in 2020, even through the last two months of school were canceled. Strive to Drive offers prizes, including a new vehicle to one lucky winner, to inspire students to excel.

“It’s very exciting for us at the dealership and all of the Maury County students who participate,” Collier said.

Hyundai of Columbia Sales Manager Patrick Robertson said April and May will be close-to record months for his team as well. Hyundai has mastered home delivery and online sales, he added.

“The first eight to 10 days of the pandemic, we asked employees to stay home, and we cut hours,” Robertson said. “We wanted to come back slowly, but we were getting overwhelmed.”

A wild card looms in the fall for customers. Rental car companies, such as Hertz, which recently declared bankruptcy, likely will flood the market in fall with used cars for sale.

“If so, there will be plenty of vehicles available for sale,” Robertson said.

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