As countries around the world start to ease their flavour of 'lockdown' one of those first sectors to be able to open up is the car retail sector. 

As they now look to open up the showroom and fathom out how to manage the social distancing challenges which now means less cars in the showroom and more of them on the forecourt, they are also having to organise test drives without that all important insurance covered sales rep. 

But, is this really transforming the sector or is it just returning to old ways with a few modifications for social distancing?

Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) are a beacon of the car industry and even they have found this crisis to be the wake up call the industry has been postponing for sometime - sound familiar?

We've all seen the news reports of the sales decimation in the new car industry. 

As with many other manufacturing sectors the initial challenges will be the glut of stock sat around and how to turn it into cash, followed by access to relevant parts in order to get going again once sales start to pick up.

One other key area is to consider how to reconfigure the supply chain and remove cost.

This crisis has impacted luxury car purchases down through to other pre-Covid more affordable sectors of the car retailing sector. 

Images of cars produced pre-Covid and now stockpiled in some sort of dystopian car graveyard combined with the thousands of furloughed workers who themselves have been hard hit by the industry are now a sad but common place news story.    

However, apart from the move to more hybrid vehicles if we look at some of the changes that were already moving forwards we can see a huge opportunity that will of course re-shape the sector, and if delivered in the right way will prove to be a win win for the car industry and the consumer.

Dealerships beware!

The challenges thrown up by COVID-19 can prove to be a decisive watershed moment for car retailers, noting: The shift towards digital car buying model has been testing for many dealers; profitability and critical customer relationships have been eroded by a series of online businesses placing themselves between the dealer and car buyer.

It has been neither deliberate or rapid, but as the saying goes; ‘dripping water will erode an entire mountain, possibly without the mountain noticing.’ It is time for dealers to take out costs and competition and make digitisation work for them and their customers. link below.

With the exception of Covid time after time I see that rapid decline in business transformation is a result of external forces being ignored, or delayed to fit with the internal narrative and balance sheet.

One of the biggest frustrations I have as a 'change and growth agent' is that often I've been called into work with companies and leadership teams when the problem has become a basket case. Without a doubt this crisis has now accelerated that inevitable process for many, and created unforeseen opportunity for others.

Recent data show that we have vaulted five years forward in consumer and business digital adoption in a matter of around eight weeks.

Let's be truthful - there isn't a business or person who hasn't experienced some kind of 'transformational' impact as a result of this crisis. 

Because consumer behavior has already changed I would strongly argue that Covid has been the catalyst for you to get to grips with your post-Covid  'Why'.

So when you return to what will hopefully be your business and job my guess is that 'growth' in the next 2 months  will be the biggest priority you and your leadership team will face because transformation has already taken place. 

In the next 90 days. CEOs should ask their business leaders to assess how the needs and behaviors of their most important customers have changed and benchmark their digital channels against those of their competition or closest disrupter.

Prior to the start of this crisis consumers elected to use those businesses they could deal with via the internet, as a result of the crisis they chose them because they couldn't go out. 

And buying a new car might not have been at the top of the list.

For many others it was an opportunity to satisfy 'curiosity with intent' that could be leveraged by online retail businesses that up until now had a 'good enough' customer experience mindset.

This could just be a short term change in behaviour for some, alternatively it could have simply edged those undecided people closer to brands and businesses who seemed to serve them well and provide a good enough experience.

Growth is a combination of agility, and innovation along with the ability for a company and its leaders to accept and be willing to implement 'change'.

The rapid change in social networks and people's interactions across these platforms are already having huge beneficial impact on all kinds of businesses - therein lies (for many) an untapped opportunity.

Findings suggest that post Covid leadership teams will have to be far more agile and be able to adapt at greater speed in order to hold onto their positions. 

A significant part of those agile strategies will be to cut out the middle man and develop a direct relationship with the end consumer.

With 3.8bn people on one social platform or other maybe its time for the car manufacturing sector to better understand how to build relationships that can deliver on that d2C strategy.

If you need help feel free to drop me a note.