CoVid-19 Industry Updates

CoVid-19 Industry Updates (73)

Collections and cash flow remain critical in the buy-here, pay-here business and even more so in the era of COVID-19.

Ray Lloyd, of Mike Carlson Motor Co. in Texas offered dealers collection survival tips during a webinar with Ignite Consulting on April 7.

The fundamentals of liquidating accounts do not change in this environment, Lloyd said. Dealers need to get information about why customers are behind –  even if that is because of unemployment. Confirming and validating that information will help with the collections process.

Lloyd prefers the customer provide a copy of the letter that confirms unemployment status with the weekly benefit amount.

“Typically,  what we tell customers is that we’re going to be flexible with them for payment arrangements,” Lloyd said.

That means setting payments on the day they receive the unemployment benefit, even if it’s different than the typical due date.

Collectors must keep in mind the additional $600 unemployment benefit provided by the federal CARES relief package will also help customers.

Lloyd and his account managers also educate the customer on services offered through the state’s unemployment website.

“Learn it yourself and get it into the hands of your people,” he said.

Lloyd downloads tutorials from the state site that explain to his employees the process customers will have to go through.

Show the customers the different forms of state relief they qualify for, from food programs to local rental assistance, Lloyd said.

“Let them know about that and what else is available (such as) the SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance) Program and the Family First Act,” Lloyd said. “We send the links to customers in emails  and text messages.”

Richard Hudson, managing partner of Ignite Consulting, praised the idea of helping customers find relief programs.

“What I’m seeing in the data is there are a lot of people that are having to reach out to programs that they may never have had to reach out to before,” Hudson said. “They may not even know where to begin.”

Lloyd said by helping customers with their other needs, it helps them continue making the car payment.

He added that some customers initially refuse to go on unemployment, but Lloyd tells them it’s like car insurance when you have an accident. You wouldn’t refuse car insurance to fix your car and unemployment insurance is no different, Lloyd said.

“You’re already paying into this program,” he said. “This is the time you need to take advantage of it.”

Giving account mana gers this type of information to share with customers gives them more confidence on calls, Lloyd said.

When the shelter-in-place orders started it was a shock. Ironically, when that happened, Lloyd saw an increase of payments coming in.

The dealership offered a deferral program where, if a customer made a payment, the dealership would defer a payment. Of the 399 customers who got a deferral, only six failed to make the next payment, Lloyd said.

“I think we were pretty successful with that,” he said.

Then came the “lull” period, where people thought the shutdowns would be brief.

“It hasn’t happened that way,” Lloyd said.

Customers who were off work hadn’t yet filed for unemployment, which they should have done right away, he said.

“What we need to do is get them out of the lull and into action,” Lloyd  said.

Hudson said dealers have a part to play. They can’t sit around waiting on customers to make a move. The collectors have a role in this, he said.

Lloyd even has a contest where he collects all the weekly benefit amount statements that his collectors get from their customers. He puts them into a basket and draws one out and that employee gets an additional incentive.

Lloyd also sends out texts three times a week, letting customers know they are working with them, as long as the customers share information with them.

He adds that it doesn’t mean that things will go smoothly through this downturn.

“I just had a meeting with my group,” Lloyd said. “We are going to get beat up more than we normally do.”

Collectors should give customers guidance and help them to get any other resources available to them, while making sure they understand they still have a car payment.

“Maintain the expectations,” Lloyd said, “The car is one of  the most  important things they have. It’s food, shelter and then the car. The car has to be the next in line.”

He added there is no reason to argue. This downturn is like others, just a little more hectic.

“On the other hand, in 2008 we didn’t have this $2 trillion assistance package,” Lloyd said. “We were dealing just with unemployment. It was much more difficult to deal with that.”

Ignite’s Steve Levine also urges dealers to post information on their establishments detailing the things they are doing to keep employees and customers safe.

“Make sure you have your cleaning materials out and visible,” he said. “Make a show of it,. There is a lot of fear out there.”

Showing that you’re keeping things clean is a priority and will comfort guests and employees, he said. It’s important to have cleaning supplies out and a schedule for cleaning..

Ignite Consulting also suggests posting this information on your website and documenting that you are doing this to protect the business.

 

The recession in the wake of COVID-19 could resemble the “curve” discussed by the Coronavirus Task Force, according to Tom Kontos, KAR Global chief economist.

Kontos, in the recent edition of his Kontos Kommentary, looked at the current economic shutdown in light of past economic downturns.

“Because the last 10 years have represented the longest expansion on record, one must go back to the Great Recession of 2008-09 and the 9/11 timeframe to find downturns and shocks to the economy that negatively affected wholesale values for a sustained period of time,” wrote Kontos, providing a chart to illustrate his point.

 

 

Kontos said the post-9/11 recession lasted between March and November but had a “short-lived effect on wholesale values.”

The continued price declines after October were “due primarily to an influx of off-lease volume and high new vehicle incentives even as the economy rebounded. The downturn in average prices after 9/11 continued for 20 months until May of 2003, which I described as an ‘inflection point’ in the wholesale market at the time,” Kontos reported.

He said the more dramatic fall in wholesale prices during the Great Recession from Dec. 2007 to June 2009  was followed by a quick recovery.

Kontos compared those downturns with the forced stoppage of economic activity in much of the country now.

“The recession that this has induced will likely follow a pattern that mirrors the ‘curve’ of the pandemic often talked about by Dr. (Anthony) Fauci in his press briefings,” Kontos stated.

Kontos said that just as the pandemic was likely to worsen before it got better, when auctions resume some semblance of pre-March level of sales and conversion rates then used vehicle prices are likely to fall by the same double-digit year-on-year levels we saw both post-9/11 and during the Great Recession.

“So, the duration of the decline will likely correspond to the length of the current recession, which again depends on the timing of resumption of social and economic interaction as the pandemic is contained,” Kontos said.

“And, it’s best to expect that upticks in used vehicle values are several months down the road, though strong demand for used vehicles in tough times, supportive government fiscal and monetary policies, and low oil prices should help limit the damage.”

 

 

Watch February 2020 Kontos Kommentary, Tom Kontos, Chief Economist at KAR Global, provides his insight and updates regarding the current used vehicle market conditions.

A new LendingTree survey of more than 1,200 small business owners found that 71 percent worry they’ll never fully recover from the downturn due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. Nearly half of small business owners have temporarily closed their businesses. They have also laid off workers or reduced hours while trying to source funding to stay afloat. LendingTree conducted an online survey of 1,221 small business owners who had previously applied for funding through LendingTree’s small business lending database. Participants were emailed a link to participate in the survey which was fielded using Qualtrics from March 24-30, 2020.

One percent of small business owners are worried their business will never recoup the losses associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. Business owners in the accommodation/food service and retail trade sectors are among the most likely to fear for their company’s future.

Nearly half — 47 percent — of small business owners surveyed have taken on debt to keep their business afloat during the pandemic. An additional 34 percent attempted to seek financing but were not approved.

Eight in 10 small business owners have “no idea” where to get emergency funding for their business right now while 69 percent of small business owners do not have enough cash on hand to sustain their business for the next 90 days.

Carvana, the e-commerce platform for buying and selling used cars, in an effort to provide customers more flexible financing options during this difficult time, is now giving customers up to 90 days to make their first payment.

Carvana provides “Touchless Delivery” and a 7-day return policy. Customers can shop more than 25,000 vehicles on Carvana.com with high-definition, 360-degree virtual vehicle tours, finance, purchase and select as-soon-as-next-day Touchless home delivery, all in as little as 5 minutes. Customers financing with Carvana are eligible to opt in to the payment extension option, as long as they complete their purchase by April 20, 2020.

“Carvana has always been a company intensely focused on doing the right thing for our customers, and in a time when many are feeling the strain between needing safe transportation to an essential job and personal finances, we want customers to know we’re here for them,” said Ernie Garcia, Carvana founder and CEO. “Our hope is that those who simply can’t put a vehicle purchase on hold are able to get what they need quickly and easily, so they can keep moving.”

Michigan dealership Car City is incentivizing people to practice social distancing – while having some fun. The Wyoming, Mich.- based auto dealership will be running a contest throughout April, where winners will receive $500 by submitting photos of how they are creatively practicing social distancing or how they are contributing to the community.

“While social distancing is a very important part of Michigan’s recovery, when you’re used to spending your days working it can be a struggle staying at home and having so much time on your hands,” said Han Lee, marketing manager of Car City.

“We decided to help pause the monotony, have a little fun and help where we can. So, we’re asking people to post photos on our Facebook page of how they’re practicing social distancing or helping against this fight. Each Friday in April we’ll choose the photo we like best and give $500 to that person.”

Earlier this month, Car City partnered with other local businesses to help the Grand Rapids community by supporting the Garage Bar and Grill’s CARES program, where the local eatery has been providing up to 100 free meals every day for 30 days.

Xtime is offering enhanced resources and multiple key features at no additional charge, helping dealers support consumers in the changing landscape while preparing them for a more digital and profitable future beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.  

“The latest numbers from our recent Cox Automotive COVID-19 Dealer Impact Study confirm that dealers anticipate service appointments to be the second most impacted area of business, despite fixed ops being deemed essential work in many states,” said David Foutz, vice president of sales at Xtime. “At Xtime, we’re in a position to help dealers not only weather the storm but come out the other side even stronger than before and that’s exactly what we intend to do by offering free services for 90 days of features that promote social distancing like service pickup and delivery, and online payment to our clients.”  

Dealerships should adopt the following best practices: offer vehicle pickup and delivery, and service pickup and delivery, powered by Clutch (offered at no cost through the end of July 2020); enable online payments; adopt a digital check-in process; and exercise social distancing among staff.

American Honda has pledged $1 million to address needs of communities across North America and is donating personal protection equipment and the use of 3D printers in Honda operations to produce face shields for healthcare providers.

The automaker, like others, has taken a major hit because of COVID-19 and government shutdown orders.

March and COVID-19 stopped American Honda’s strong 2020 start as sales fell 48 percent in the month.

“As a society, we're all in this together. After a strong start to the year, industry sales are going to suffer in the short term, and we have suspended auto production as part of our effort to carefully manage our business in the face of the steep decline in demand,” said Steven Center, vice president of automobile sales at American Honda. “At Honda, we are focused more than ever on supporting our customers, our dealers, our associates, and the communities where we live and work. Our country is going to come back strong and we are going to come back strong, and we know there are better times ahead.”

As a result of the pandemic, hundreds of Honda and Acura dealers closed during March, complying with government mandates.

Dealers that remained open focused on taking care of existing customers through maintenance and repair.

Unemployment claims rose to 6.8 million for the week ending March 28, the highest level of seasonally adjusted initial claims in history, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Last week’s claims were adjusted up to 3,307,000.

The advance number of actual initial claims under state programs, unadjusted, totaled 5,823,917 in the week ending March 28, an increase of 2,903,757 (or 99.4 percent) from the previous week. The seasonal factors had expected a decrease of 23,150 (or -0.8 percent) from the previous week. There were 183,775 initial claims in the comparable week in 2019. The advance unadjusted insured unemployment rate was 2.3 percent during the week ending March 21, an increase of 0.9 percentage point from the prior week.

The advance unadjusted number for persons claiming unemployment insurance benefits in state programs totaled 3,383,382, an increase of 1,308,646 (or 63.1 percent) from the preceding week. The seasonal factors had expected a decrease of 82,062 (or -4.0 percent) from the previous week. A year earlier the rate was 1.3 percent and the volume was 1,908,355.

Wuhan, a city of 11 million, known as China's 'Detroit' is reopening after the city was put on lockdown on January 23rd . The city, the original epicenter of the novel coronavirus, reopened train stations on sat and bus and subway service on Monday. This comes as good news as Chinese officials have been working to revive manufacturing and other industries while also preventing a spike in infections as people return to work. Automakers and parts suppliers in and around Wuhan are still dealing with partially blocked roads and health inspections on major transportation arteries, which has created problems moving around raw materials and finished parts.

The opening of public transit and loosening of travel around Hubei province means more people can get back to work in the manufacturing hub and more auto parts can be shipped out.

Chinese automakers and parts producers exported $53 billion worth of automotive components to the United States, Europe, Japan, South Korea and elsewhere last year. 

  • Honda is expecting to reopen its Wuhan hub this week after the lockdown is lifted. Together, Honda’s two China hubs have the capacity to produce 1.2 million vehicles a year, or more than 20% of the company’s total global production.
  • Nissan and Hyundai both have manufacturing facilities in Hubei province and have seen disruption to their supply chains but they are beginning to ramp up production as transportation in Wuhan and around Hubei province continues to open up and staff can return to work.
  • U.S. auto supplier Cooper Standard headquartered outside of Detroit has 13 factories across China which have resumed production with 65% of the normal workforce.
  • U.S. drivetrain supplier Dana Inc has luckily avoided any significant disruptions of there Chinese supply lines. 

 

 

Penske Automotive Group Inc. announced a hiring freeze, negotiated rent deferrals for up to 90 days and a postponement in $150 million in capital expenditures.

“The COVID-19 crisis is impacting our operations requiring us to take swift and decisive action to address declining business levels. I am confident the actions we are taking will help our business overcome these challenges,” Penske Automotive Group CEO Roger Penske said.

The company reported that the majority of OEMs the company represents, and their respective captive finance companies, have offered significant support during this crisis, including interest payment deferrals. In addition, executive and management compensation has been significantly reduced, including a 100 percent reduction in salary for the CEO and president for the duration of the crisis and the board of directors has waived cash compensation for the next six months.

The company said virtual/online sales of new and used vehicles remain available in most locations, while the service departments remain open to support critical transportation needs.  

Commercial truck dealership sales and service operations remain open in most locations around the U.S. and Canada. Currently, this part of their business is experiencing a consistent flow of service customers, the report said. Hours of service restrictions on motor carriers have been lifted for those involved in essential business support. 

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