Farmington car dealerships are bouncing back just seven weeks after getting the OK to reopen

Matt Hollinshead,
Ziems Ford Corners salesman Carroll Carter sanitizes the dashboard of a vehicle in the dealership's inventory on Monday, July 20, 2020, in Farmington.

FARMINGTON — Local car dealerships are already bouncing back in some manner just seven weeks after getting the green light to reopen.

The car dealerships were ordered to close in-person operations in early April due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This restriction was lifted in June. 

After making just 25 and 50% of its sales goals for April and May, respectively, Horace Nissan made 90% of its June sales goal and is projected to reach around 75% of its July sales goal.

The significant change, however, came by way of its service department, which was deemed "essential" by the state and did not have to shut down.

Clifton Horace, owner of Horace Nissan, said his dealership made 115% of its June service goal and is on track to hit 120% of its July service goal.

The dealership made just 35% of its service goal for April, followed by somewhere between 85 and 90% of its May service goal. That's a far cry from where Horace Nissan is at now.

“It’s exciting. It’s great for my people. Everybody’s commission-based,” Horace said. “I was pleasantly surprised at the speed of the rebound in service.”

Ziems Ford Corners, which also kept its service department open, reached 100% of its sales goals in June and is projected to reach 100% for July sales. Ziems Ford Corners’ combined sales for the final week and a half of March and all of April were less than 50%, as well as roughly 60% for May.

“Definitely a much-needed boost, for sure... Would’ve been in a whole different situation had (the state) not opened back up," said Mike Ziems, the sales and marketing manager at Ziems Ford Corners.

Horace said the recent uptick stems from pent-up demand.

“I see a long, slow climb back to the norm,” Horace said, adding that used cars sales will aid in longer-term recovery.

Online transactions surge

Ziems said web traffic for Ziems Ford Corners' online retail transactions is at 150% compared the numbers observed in June and July of 2019.

“I think people are enjoying that part of it,” Ziems said.

Horace said only 5% of all his customers normally did online transactions for COVID-19 entered the picture.

That number has tripled, if not quadrupled, in the last couple months, Horace said.

Horace also said he expects to see more online deals and have that method of car-buying as more permanent.

Ziems said he wants to do as many online transactions as possible to keep customers safe and get everything lined up in advance to limit in-store interactions.

'We're still not out of the woods yet'

At this point, Ziems said he's bracing for another shutdown at any time, citing the reinstated indoor dining ban that went into effect on July 13.

“We’re hoping that doesn’t happen. But we’re preparing for that happen again," Ziems said. “We’re still not out of the woods yet… For the year, we’re making up some ground that we’ve lost. It’s definitely helping, but we’re definitely not out of the woods.”

Ziems said that in order to remain open, extra precautions with sanitations must be taken.

“We don’t want to take a step backwards from where we’re at now,” Ziems said.

Matt Hollinshead covers sports for the Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577 and on Twitter at @MattH_717.

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