As you read this, some states across the country have begun reopening their economies or are approaching their designated date to open.
In those places, life will return to normal, right?
The COVID-19 pandemic will have a permanent effect on life as we know it, particularly in the tire and automotive service industries.
First, the world should realize what folks within the industry already knew: the tire industry is an essential business, part of the fabric of our economy, as well as our way of life.
Most tire dealers have remained open, servicing vehicles of those on the front lines of this fight against the disease: Doctors, nurses and first responders, as well as workers at grocery stores and drug stores and those who deliver our mail and packages.
Tire dealers help to keep those vehicles operating safely, providing an invaluable — or essential — service that ultimately plays a part in saving lives.
Second, the industry itself will change exponentially, just as many others will.
With social distancing in place in the long-term, we expect more and more consumers not only will order their tires online but will become comfortable with it.
And if they feel safer ordering tires online, why wouldn't they also feel comfortable scheduling service appointments online? Expect more and more consumers to do just that, particularly with dealerships that offer pickup and delivery.
Certainly there will be customers who still will come into service shops and wait for their vehicles. They'll want to hear what product the dealer recommends for their vehicles.
That brings about other challenges: showrooms must be evaluated and perhaps reconfigured to accommodate social distancing. Eric Gill, president and CEO of Gill's Point S Tire & Auto in Oregon, said his shops erected a barrier of tires around the service desk to maintain proper distancing. What a great idea.
Shops must be vigilant about maintaining a clean, sanitary showroom. While that might be standard practice for most dealers, cleanliness must be apparent to the customer as soon as he or she walks through the door.
What about that door? Will customers want to touch it? Will consumers expect automatic doors?
They will look to clean their hands. Dealers certainly should consider installing dispensers for hand sanitizers at various locations in their shops.
And who would have thought that ordering sanitizing and cleaning supplies, as well as latex gloves, would be as vital as ordering tires or replacement parts?
Once North America reopens, we expect consumers will choose to use their cars for long trips, opting to travel with family and friends in close proximity as opposed to getting on a plane and sharing recirculated air with strangers.
That would be welcome news for the tire and automotive service industry. More miles traveled means more business.
When that happens, will you be ready for the new norm?