OTTAWA, Ontario — Much like its U.S. counterpart, the Canadian automotive aftermarket has been struggling under government restrictions to limit the spread of COVID-19, according to the Automotive Industries Association of Canada (AIA).
For the most part, automotive repair and parts distributing companies have been deemed "essential services" by the federal agencies and provincial governments that have issued restrictions on general business activity.
But some companies have lost sales under stay-at-home orders AIA President Jean-Francois Champagne said during an April 1 conference call, so the federal government recently created wage subsidy and loan programs to help small businesses and employees who lost their jobs.
"We need to balance the safety for our staff and provide safety for our customers," Mr. Champagne said.
"While doing this, we also need to be involved with those people on the front lines — doctors, police officers, nurses — with the support they need to fix their vehicles and keep them going. We need to be an active component to the essential services in our country."
The AIA — which represents automotive aftermarket retailers, wholesalers and manufacturers and has championing the aftermarket's designation as an "essential business" under government "stay-at-home" restrictions — has created a support page on its website dedicated to COVID-19 updates for its members.
Mr. Champagne noted that on March 24 both Ontario and Quebec temporarily closed non-essential businesses, and while both provinces deemed the automotive aftermarket as an essential service, there were slight differences between their interpretation.
Automotive repair shops in Ontario can continue to provide services to all customers but those in Quebec are restricted to servicing vehicles used by first responders. Any service that can wait, should wait, he said.
So, for example, most collision repair centers are now closed in Quebec, while most have remained open in Ontario, he said.
British Columbia closed all non-essential businesses but allows automotive aftermarket businesses to provide services. Regulations and definitions of essential services vary in other provinces, as well.