I’ve gone back and forth about what to write about in this column. At this moment, on March 16, the Coronavirus is dominating the news. Here in Ohio, we’ve made headlines because our governor was one of the first to close public schools, and then bars and restaurants (although, at press time, carryout is allowed). A number of other states followed suit. But I imagine things will only get crazier.
I hesitated to focus on COVID-19 in this column, because I have no idea what’s going to happen between now and the time you read this. Here’s the best-case scenario: By the time ShopOwner hits your mailbox, the nation is back to business as usual, and you’ll look at this and say, “Coronavirus, huh. That’s old news.” And I’d be perfectly fine with that. Why? Because that would mean we were able to quickly contain the spread of COVID-19 and minimize the number of illnesses and casualties. That would be a blessing.
When we spoke with Leigh Anne Best, director of marketing for Mighty Auto Pro in Medina, Ohio, she said it was “business as usual,” although she admitted “we may be wiping down the counters and the surfaces a little more than usual.” That was in mid-March. Mighty Auto Pro, the 2018 winner of the WIX Driving Performance Award, wasn’t having any problems with techs calling off due to circumstances related to COVID-19, Best added.
So far, the biggest impact on the automotive aftermarket probably has been on the trade shows and continuing-education events that some of you might attend. At press time, the NORTHEAST 2020 Automotive Services Show in Secaucus, New Jersey, had been rescheduled to Aug. 21-23 (it usually takes place in March) and the Collision Industry Conference’s April events in Jacksonville, Florida, had been cancelled. Also, the Automotive Service Association announced that the joint CARS (Congress of Automotive Repair & Service), TTF (Technology & Telematics Forum) and annual business meeting had been postponed until late August or early September. The event originally had been scheduled for May 4-5 in Hurst, Texas.
The automotive aftermarket always has been in a strong position to ride out tough economic times, even recessions. After all, when someone’s vehicle breaks down, they have to get it fixed. But what if they stop driving to work – or anywhere? Travel bans, curfews and mandatory work-from-home arrangements seem like ominous circumstances for automotive repairers.
At this moment, the situation is fluid. I’m not even going to try to summarize today’s headlines, because things are changing daily. That gives me hope that by the time you read this, it’s possible we’ll be well on our way to putting COVID-19 behind us. Only time will tell.
All business concerns aside, I hope and pray that you, your employees and your loved ones are healthy. This is just a moment in time, and this too shall pass.