If you don’t like the weather…
The 2020 business environment for those in the New Hampshire auto industry has reminded me of the phrase, “If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes.”
When the sun dawned on Jan. 1 of 2020, we saw a promising new year with strong sales on the horizon. As the winter thawed and the mud season began, things looked even more promising for the automotive industry. Unfortunately, when the coronavirus first reared its invisible yet ugly head, things could not have looked grimmer for our automotive world. In early April, if you had asked most NHADA member-businesses what the business climate forecast was for summer and fall, words like stormy, hurricane-like headwinds, damaging hail would have been apt descriptions.
As I write this year in review in November and look back at the changing weather patterns, the summer and fall were dramatically different than expected. Sales have been incredibly strong for most facets of the New Hampshire Auto Dealers Association members. So strong, in fact, that many stores have been scrambling for inventory to sell, both new and used. Many shops have reported that their service business also remained strong despite COVID-19.
So why are things so dramatically different between March and November? There are many reasons, and I’ll try to highlight a few. First off, we are a resilient industry. For 20 years now, the crystal ball seers of the world had predicted dealers’ demise, the end of body shops and repair shops because consumers were going to end their personal ownership of cars, cars were going to be driverless and all-electric and perhaps even flying.
When the virus first hit, the scrappy owners adjusted quickly to trim expenses and adjusted their business practices. Using NHADA’s playbook as a guide, COVID-19 safe business practices were put in place with expanded pickup and drop-off for sales and service and various safety measures inside the shops, including wearing masks and plenty of hand sanitizer.
The NHADA association also jumped into the fray to help ensure that auto businesses were declared as “essential businesses” by Governor Sununu. NH was the first state to declare both service and sales as essential. We greatly appreciate the Governor listening to our concerns. Social distancing and stay-cations caused consumers to rely more than ever upon personal ownership of vehicles and investments in a variety of recreation vehicles.
The November election has also brought a change in the political climate both nationally and in New Hampshire. Citizens clearly recognized that Governor Sununu had done an excellent job in leading our state through the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. Following in his slip-stream, the GOP took over the NH House, Senate, and Executive Council.
So, as we look to the 2021 forecast, the coronavirus will continue to cause uncertainty until a vaccine is readily available to all of us. No different than putting snow tires on your car, you should keep in place your covid-safe practices to keep your employees and customers safe. Follow the NHADA playbook, buy covid-safe products from the NHADA store, wear masks, and ensure your customers and employees wear masks and keep handwashing!
Pete McNamara, President