BRAMPTON, Ont. – Longtime truck salesman Kevin MacDonnell was blunt in his assessment of the current situation.
“To do sales and
deliveries, and keep social distancing (at the same time) is hard.”
So, the account manager
at Volvo dealer Vision Truck Group has been meeting customers over the phone,
outside the building and at their yards to close deals.
Still, following the health and safety protocol is the easy part.
A bigger issue is the uncertainty hanging over the economy under Covid-19.
“The customer is
cautious about what he is doing, whether it is the right time to buy a truck,”
“We are trying to
work through this situation, and make sure that the customer gets the right
equipment for their needs.”
He said OEMs and
finance companies have come out with a bunch of incentives, and are helping
move some of the inventory on the ground.
MacDonnell, who works at Vision Brampton, said April was a “dismal month.” May was better, but “a very low month.”
Transport intelligence provider FTR said this week that May orders for Class 8 trucks were down 37% year-over-year to 6,600 units.
It said fleets are more worried about what is
happening today, about their manpower needs and short-term issues, than
Signs of life
Despite the gloom and doom spawned by the pandemic, truck sales are showing signs of life again, according
to Syed Ahmed, account manager at Cervus Equipment – Peterbilt of Mississauga,
The trigger for
new sales was the reopening of the construction sector.
“This is like a
lifeline,” said Ahmed, sounding relieved.
He said until
Ontario reopened the construction sector in mid-May, purchasing a truck was the
last thing on anyone’s mind, and salespeople were the last people anyone wanted
to talk to.
Sales have picked
up quite a bit since then.
Ahmed, who has
been working from home since March, is now back at his office as customers have
begun returning to the showroom.
“They are buying
trucks. I just did a deal for seven trucks, and the guy needs another 15.”
Ahmed said some
longhaul drivers are now moving into the construction industry amid the
He said all sales and deliveries are conducted in an extremely safe environment.
Help from technology
East Coast International Trucks, a major dealer for International trucks in Atlantic Canada, is relying on technology and social media to sell trucks during Covid-19.
“I do believe that there is business out there. We just have to be safer and smarter to earn it,” said Marks Lockhart, sales manager.
He said a sales app, launched by International’s parent company Navistar before the pandemic struck, has been of big help.
“It can provide things like configuration, diagrams and brochures, all at the swipe of your phone,” said Lockhart.
He said Covid-19 has forced people to think differently, and utilize some tools that perhaps they haven’t had to use in the past.
It is not all virtual, though.
Person-to-person interaction is still involved in the delivery process, but the company makes sure that all vehicles delivered are thoroughly cleaned and disinfected.
acknowledged that there has been a decline in sales due to Covid-19.
are moving with it, and I feel that that we will certainly get through this.”
Customers are anxious
“I think business has calmed down a little bit, not a lot,” said Dwayne Frewin, manager of fleet sales at Freightliner dealer Premier Truck Group in Mississauga.
“Customers are a little bit more tentative to close the deal because they don’t know what the future is holding for themselves and for their company.”
anxiety is reflected in a 20% to 30% drop in sales since the coronavirus
outbreak, he said.
said most sales are being done over the phone, and he meets customers
face-to-face only by appointment, may be once a week.
said salespeople at the dealership follow the company’s social distancing guidelines,
and customers appreciate that.
both have jobs to do, and they realize it, we realize it,” said Frewin.
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