Charlottesville-area car dealerships see sales rebound

Charlottesville-area car dealerships see COVID-19 sales rebound

ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Va. (WVIR) - A global pandemic might seem like a bad time to buy a car, but dealerships in central Virginia say they are seeing a rebound in sales and service numbers.

Summer is typically one of the biggest times of the year for car sellers nationwide, a season that dealerships bank on — literally — to support them through less busy months. With the pandemic in full swing, dealers across central Virginia didn’t know what to expect. While the summer hasn’t seen sales in full swing, it’s far from the slow down they expected.

“I was really amazed at how well we’ve done during this period,” Sandy Fewell of Jim Price Automotive said.

A pandemic that slows down the economy does not seem like a time to buy a car. Dealerships in and around Charlottesville braced for the worst.

“We prudently thought it might be 50 or 60% decline in sales,” Matt Walsh of Carter Myers Automotive said. “Then probably an equal decline in our service departments.”

Instead, the declines were far from as bad as they expected, and quickly turned around. Low interest rates and good deals from manufacturers drove buyers to the dealerships.

“That first month was about half that decline, about 30%,” Walsh explained. “Then, in May, we were down only about 10%. In June, we’re actually up by 11 or 12%. So, it is much better than what we had feared.”

In fact, sales dipped again in July, but not because of a lack of interest from customers. Instead, manufacturers have struggled to supply dealers with cars.

“Almost every brand that we represent had five or six weeks worth of production halted,” Walsh said. “So, their ability to get us the cars hurt us.”

As sales have bounced back, people coming into get their cars serviced have also nearly returned to normal levels, even with additional precautions in place.

“We have a cleaning solution that we clean all the major touch points, not only for our customers when they get back in their car after we’ve worked on them but also for our technicians when they get in the car to actually work on the vehicle,” Fewell explained. “Because you don’t really ever know where these things are coming from.”

At Jim Price for example they say they expect the service side of the business will meet or exceed previous years numbers in August.

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