NIADA survey: Independent dealers bringing workers back to stores


States are slowly lifting stay-at-home restrictions, and independent dealerships are among the business now benefitting.

Employees are coming back to work and vehicles are beginning to roll over the curb more frequently as independent operators ramp up to get back to business, according to a new survey by the National Independent Automobile Dealers Association.

The NIADA COVID-19 Dealer Impact Survey of 846 independent operators conducted from May 9-14 — a follow-up to a survey orchestrated by NIADA a month earlier — found 63% of the dealerships that had furloughed or laid off employees a month earlier have started the process of bringing them back.

Overall, NIADA indicated 34% of the independent dealers said they are rehiring staff, 20% said they are not and 47% said the question was not applicable, meaning they had remained at a full-staffing level throughout the COVID-19 pandemic That was the same percentage as the previous survey.

According to the results released on Friday, 39% of operators who are rehiring said they had experienced no problems in doing so, but 31% acknowledged their employees were hesitant to come back because they were making more through the government’s enhanced unemployment benefits than they had made at their jobs, and 19% said fear of the coronavirus was an issue.

The survey also showed dealerships opening up again, with 44% doing business as usual (compared to 27% in April), 34% open by appointment only and 10% selling online only.

NIADA discovered just 11% of dealer survey participants remain closed temporarily — down from 27% — and 1% reported they have closed permanently.

“I am encouraged that the COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t put more dealers out of business permanently, as was originally feared,” NIADA chief executive officer Steve Jordan said in a news release. “Recovery and signs of life are showing, as 88% of dealers are open for business, with almost half open for ‘business as usual.’

“Unfortunately, open for business as usual doesn’t always mean sales have returned,” Jordan added.

Indeed, NIADA sales remain below pre-COVID levels for most dealers.

The survey showed 53% of the respondents said their sales were down 50% or more for the previous two weeks. Another 12% of dealers said their sales were back to normal levels, and 6% said sales were actually better than before the pandemic.

Rebuilding sales and customer traffic is by far the greatest challenge currently faced by independent dealers, cited by 38% of respondents in NIADA survey. The association noted that’s twice as many as the second choice, access to inventory at 19%, which was followed by funding and access to capital at 17%.

NIADA explained the funding issue has been lessened for some dealers by government relief programs such as loans from the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program.

The association went on to mention the survey found 64% of dealers have received some sort of federal or state government funding. Of those who have not, 28% have applied and 4% have been approved. Another 8% said they were approved but told there was no money available.

To view the complete results of the NIADA COVID-19 Dealer Impact Survey, visit

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