NADA’s first ever online town hall took place in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic—a time when dealers are working to keep their families, employees and customers safe and preserve their businesses. During the webinar, NADA Chairman Rhett Ricart and NADA President and CEO Peter Welch provided insights into the current state of the auto retail environment and reviewed current NADA initiatives to help dealers manage COVID-19.

“We are in a uniquely challenging moment for our industry,” shared Ricart, CEO and owner of Ricart Automotive Group in Columbus, Ohio. “In 2009, many of us were fighting manufacturers to keep our franchises. Today we are fighting this thing we can’t see, this virus, that has killed tens of thousands of people worldwide and all but killed our customer demand here in the United States.”

“We don’t take this lightly, it is a sad moment for many of us,” Ricart added. “But dealers have ALWAYS survived. That’s what we do, it’s in our DNA.”

Ricart also praised dealers for adapting and adopting online vehicle sales and new sales tactics in the current environment, as well as encouraged all dealers to enhance adoption of online and digital communications with customers.

Along with words of encouragement, Ricart outlined some of the key tools and resources available to dealers to navigate business operations and regulations during this uncertain time. NADA tools outlined to provide important, timely information that impact dealership operations in the coronavirus environment, as well as relevant dealer guidance, including the NADA Coronavirus HubLifeline Webinar Series, the daily Coronavirus Update email and a new Driven Guide: Safely Operating your Dealership During a Pandemic.

Welch covered the status of NADA’s advocacy efforts in Washington: “We have been busy under some extraordinary circumstances, as everyone is aware,” said Welch. “We have knocked down all of our mission statements down to just one, and that is to help our members and employees weather the COVID-19 storm and stay financially solvent to fight another day.”

One major advocacy focus is the Small Business Administration (SBA) Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). “Unfortunately, we hit the $350 billion threshold so [the PPP] is out of money,” Welch shared. “Our next task is called COVID 3.5 and that would be an extension bill.”

Welch provided an optimistic view into the next phase of funding to support small businesses, including America’s dealers, as well as proposals to jump start demand later this year when the economy is open for business.

“Obviously we want to be able to open the market up,” Welch added. “I fervently believe that there are safe and sanitary ways to protect your employees and the consuming public by selling vehicles online, making appointments, home deliveries and social distancing in the showroom.”

After opening Q&A to town hall attendees, Ricart’s final message to dealers during the webinar was short and to the point: “We got this.”

A recording of the all dealer town hall is now available to NADA members here.