A Message from Don Hall

If I had a crystal ball this time last year, and was looking at what 2020 would hold, I never would have believed the year we just experienced.

Without question, the novel coronavirus had a tremendous impact on dealerships across the Commonwealth. New state and federal directives put unyielding and constantly evolving restrictions on how you can service and sell vehicles. Dealers adjusted longstanding business practices both to comply with these requirements and to provide healthy and safe environments for customers and employees.

During this month, as we celebrate many different holidays, my VADA team and I send you our warmest wishes for the season. We hope that you find safe ways to reach out to family and friends, and we look forward to the availability of vaccines that will allow us to return to many pre-pandemic, in-person occasions.

As at Thanksgiving, this holiday season is different from others we’ve experienced, both personally and professionally. It’s different in my household, and I know it’s different in yours, as we continue to do our part to minimize the spread of COVID-19. Use this time to think about what we’ve learned as humans, what we’ve learned as operators and business leaders, what we’ve learned from our staffs and their dedication, and what we’ve learned from our customers about their needs and wants.

As we go into 2021, we’ve learned a lot from 2020. And, together, we are coming out stronger.

The Year of Disruption

At a time of disruption, you and your fellow dealers seized this moment to be the disruptors by leading the way for change. You’ve used this abnormal year to create new and progressive ways to treat customers and improve their buying experience. Such adaptation is characteristic of a dealer body that has served Virginia more than 75 years, and it’s something we must carry on should we wish to excel for 75 more. If this is a foreign concept to you – that we must continuously look for ways to better our stores and better serve our customers – you need to get more involved in the industry’s evolution.

Part of our industry’s evolution is due to changing customer demands. No one is better positioned to deliver against their expectations on a reimagined buying experience than us – and we need to make sure our customers know that. In the first two months of the pandemic, as state after state issued safer-at-home orders, consumers’ digital engagement jumped forward more than in the previous five years.

These weren’t tiny changes; they were monumental ones. And, if you were nimble and open to these new ways of doing business, you gained your customers’ confidence and trust. Rest assured, they appreciate that you now have a more experienced staff when it comes to digital sales. Also, research shows high satisfaction for new offerings like service pickup and delivery, a way of maintaining a vehicle without a customer needing to leave their home. These are positives that emerged from otherwise challenging circumstances.

Reports from the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles shows that new title registrations dropped during the early part of the pandemic. Even with sales off, we’ve managed to do better than what those in other states have been able to do. We attribute this to our members’ innovation and ingenuity.

 Leading the Way

With your support and engagement, VADA led the way in navigating through the pandemic. Other industries and legislators statewide complimented our efforts to educate you on Executive Orders and other directives, and to provide resources to help you comply and return safely, as permitted, to your core missions of servicing and selling vehicles. Rather than idly sitting, we proactively delivered information, often daily, to help you protect your business and best care for your customers. Keep in mind, many states still have limited abilities to sell, while in Virginia we have been able to adapt and live with restrictions.

In my more than 40 years of having the privilege of working in this industry, I have long recognized dealers’ ability to be externally flexible. You respond from a position of strength to both positive and negative impacts. As it turns out, in the face of adversity, many of you have enjoyed the most profitable months you've experienced in years, if not in your entire career. That’s because you met the challenges of 2020 – be it the need for digital advancements, the shortage of inventory, and more – head on.

A key takeaway from the last eight or so months is customers are looking for quicker, seamless transactions in the buying of cars. As technology has streamlined the selling process, we also look to enhance the full buying process for customers, because opportunities exist across the spectrum.

Let’s take our 2020 business experiences and improve upon them in 2021 to become even better. You’ve sent a strong message to outside disruptors that want to inject themselves into our industry that we’re a force to be reckoned with.

Remember What’s Important this Season

As we close out this year, I encourage you to be mindful of the sacrifices your staffs have had to make. This was a staggering period of change, including having to balance their children in public schools struggling to learn virtually from home. Parents have sacrificed a lot to help their children through this unprecedented experience, while continuing to support your business and its changing operations.

We hope that you use this opportunity to recognize the contributions of your people. During this holiday season, when we consider all this year has brought, we hope you are able to truly reward your people for going above and beyond – while they are doing the same thing at home for their families.

Have a safe and wonderful end of the year, everyone.

In This Issue

Check out other great articles in our December issue: