Auto repair shops, car dealership service departments changing procedures amid COVID-19 pandemic

Everyone's being safer these days. They're washing hands and staying away from others when possible to avoid contracting the virus. But what about if your car needs to go in for service? Most repair shops are playing it very safe now.

"Obviously we're going to wipe down the steering wheels, the key fobs, the door handles. We try and do everything to keep it as clean as possible. And then once the technician works on it, they're obviously going to be wearing their gloves, with the masks, and so on," said Mike Wright, owner of RM Automotive in Northridge.

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Auto repair is considered essential business, and shops are allowed to remain open during the period of restrictions.

"I have quite a few customers that work in hospitals right now and they need their car. It's really important," noted Wright.

From small shops like RM Automotive to huge dealerships, the repair industry wants to get the word out that they are there if you need them, with an eye on safety.

"All my staff, service department as well as my parts department, are following the CDC guidelines. They have the masks, they have the gloves, and they have the hand sanitizers," said Mohammed Basith, general manager of Carson Nissan.

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And this particular dealership has reconfigured its customer waiting area to keep people at least six feet apart. This goes along with reminder decals on every glass door about that physical distancing guideline.

For new car dealerships, the pandemic presents a two-fold problem. First, how to handle service and repairs, and secondly what to do about sales. As far as the latter goes, hardly anyone's buying cars these days.
But this is a time of technology, so many transactions can be done virtually.

"We launched what we call a 'buy from home' program. We've had about 4,000 dealers sign up already who are willing to complete the paperwork online and deliver the vehicle to their home," said Mike Darrow, president and CEO of TrueCar.com, an online service that connects buyers with dealerships.

And if you are in the market for a car right now, auto manufacturers are offering some big incentives.

"Nissan has stepped up with some great, great incentive programs. Like the 90-day deferred payment program. And then we have a great 0% for 60 months," Basith said.

Much of the US economy has ground to a halt in recent weeks. But the auto repair industry hopes that their portion of it is just in a slowdown. A temporary one, that doesn't last any longer than it has to.

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