WINDSOR, Ontario — Eliminating contact between technicians and customers and preventing consumers from entering the building is crucial to making sure service lanes remain safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, Canadian auto dealers are reporting.
"None of my staff is coming into contact with anyone," according to Tammy Roach, dealer principal of Charlottetown Mitsubishi on Prince Edward Island, which was planning to re-open its service lanes on April 15.
"I've called all my customers who have tires stored here and customers that are due for oil changes. And 99% of people are totally fine with it. They can make adjustments and have people pick them up or go for a walk or what have you."
The coronavirus pandemic has upended automotive retail throughout the country. Many dealers, whether by choice or due to an order from their respective provincial government, have either entirely closed or are open for service and parts only, often with a skeleton crew and limited hours.
Newel DeSouza, general manager of Maranello BMW in Vaughan, Ontario, near Toronto, said the dealership has reduced its staff to 16 employees from more than 100 as the store closed its showroom and instituted limited hours for its service department. Employees are required to stay two meters apart inside the store.
"If they get caught inside a two-meter distance, they get a verbal warning," he said. "The second time, they're sent home and another team member is brought in."
Like Ms. Roach's dealership, Mr. DeSouza said customers are not allowed inside of the store. Instead, customers drop off their keys and information at a drop-off spot at the dealership's drive-through.
A technician, wearing personal protective equipment, will then disinfect the vehicle upon entry and place protective coverings in the vehicle. When the service is done, the coverings are removed and the vehicle is disinfected again.
Mr. DeSouza said he initially expected customers to bring in vehicles mostly for emergency repairs. However, many have come in for regular maintenance, warranties, performance-related issues or to have their winter tires replaced.
"It's been a mixed bag," he said.
Likewise, Ms. Roach said her store is booked for its first week back. She said the dealership has called customers who are due for an oil change or who store tires there to see if they would be interested in booking an appointment and to educate them on what the new safety measures entail.
"People have been very understanding and accommodating, which is great," Ms. Roach said.
Some dealerships are setting up outdoor waiting areas for customers who drop off their vehicle for service. Mr. DeSouza, for instance, said customers at Maranello BMW can wait in an area by the dealership's drive-through where they are spaced several meters apart from others.