Car dealerships navigating partial reopening | Western Colorado

When Gov. Jared Polis’ stay-at-home order was in effect from March 27-April 26 to combat the coronavirus pandemic, car dealerships across Colorado had to shut down their showrooms and move sales to online and over the phone.

Dealerships faced the challenge of trying to sell vehicles without any face-to-face interaction and in a period when fewer drivers were hitting the road at all.

With Colorado now operating under a safer-at-home order, showrooms are finally open again, though with limits on capacity and plenty of social distancing tape on the floor. Dealerships in the Grand Valley are once again welcoming customers in person, which is sure to provide a sales surge.

“We actually were surprised we sold as many cars as we did when our showroom was closed over the month of April,” said Ed Bozarth General Manager Mark Miller. “We still had a decent amount of business we were still able to take care of.”

The partial shutdown impacted some dealerships in different ways. Ed Bozarth’s staff was cut by 30% during the height of the pandemic. Its current employment is still in the range of 70% of what it was. Carville’s Auto Mart, on the other hand, is back to full strength.

“We’re fully staffed, but we’re still operating within the guidelines of the CDC,” said General Manager Darin Carville. “We have the screens up, the taping, we have an annex button over here for paperwork signing and all that. We’re fully staffed again and operating.”

Miller said Ed Bozarth will be hiring people back as needed depending on the reopening.

“As of right now, we’ve brought some people back who were furloughed or laid off. It just depends. We’re going to monitor the traffic daily and business daily to see when we start bringing more back,” Miller said.

The two dealerships also saw different impacts when it came to inventory. Ed Bozarth’s new inventory has declined, but it’s also been able to pull in some inventory from its five other locations in Denver, Las Vegas and Topeka, Kansas.

Its used car inventory is on par with its pre-virus stock.

“New car inventory has been affected because there hasn’t been any transports dropping with the factory being closed,” Miller said. “My new car inventories are down some… What’s on the ground right now has been affected with the factory being shut down and not building cars, but it hasn’t affected the inventory available just because we can pull from the other locations.”

At Carville’s, however, the selection for customers has never been higher in its 31 years of operation.

“We have our highest inventory right now that we’ve had in our history,” Carville said. “We have over 360 retailing units. Over that time, we did a lot of buying so that when this did open back up, we would have a great selection for our customers. Of course, with the bigger inventory, we’re offering great deals on the inventory with huge mark-downs.”

Carville’s prices have decreased, but at Ed Bozarth, such steps haven’t been needed, largely because the dealership relies on factory pricing.

“A lot of (pricing decisions) come from the factory as far as new cars go,” Miller said. “It’s based off what the incentives are, plus our dealer discounts, as well. GM (General Motors) right now has 0% for 84 months. We’ve never seen that before, and they’ve had that going for about 60 days now. So there’s no interest for 84 months on their best-selling models. We’re always aggressive on our pricing, anyway, so we really haven’t had to change that on our new and used inventories.”

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