Automotive Dealership Operations in a COVID World


Erich K. Gail, CEO of the Cardinale Group of Companies, recently spoke with Laurie Halter, Owner, Charisma! Communications, where he discussed the ins and outs of Automotive Dealership Operations in a COVID World. His 30 years of global automotive experience and experience with having served in a variety of different executive and leadership roles have provided him with a unique perspective on tackling automotive sales during this global pandemic. His extensive experience developing new business operations across the globe have also helped in shaping the Cardinale Group’s new way of doing business, during the COVID-19 environment.


The Cardinale Group of Companies is made up of a number of automotive-industry supporting companies, including 18 dealerships across California, Arizona and Nevada, and a myriad of other companies, which have allowed them the ability to serve and support numerous dealerships across the United States and Canada.


When it comes to the 18 Cardinale-owned dealerships, Gail mentions that within California the Group has maintained its stores fully opened; while a few counties in California have taken a more restrictive measure, which has limited or even prohibited showroom visitors, which has obviously presented a few new challenges. Gail mentions that although some counties in California and Nevada have ever-changing restrictions, it has not slowed down their digital and eCommerce retailing, which he claims has remained strong and wide open during this time.


Focusing heavily on digital retail has always been a priority of the Group, which has allowed them to continue on seamlessly even during this interesting time. Gail mentions that the Group has managed to continue doing test-drives in customer’s driveways and other off-site venues in the communities in which they serve – making it a safe and comfortable experience for both the customers and their employees.


Gail then goes on to review how each state is handling things differently, which has created a number of different market environments. Some states are not under any kind of executive order, while other states are under various degrees of measures based on the Governor’s orders, based on how the Governors have chosen to protect their states. Gail mentioned that they are working a number of other dealer groups, outside their own stores to come up with different ways to overcome those challenges. He also touched on the importance of dealers lean on each other during this time to ensure everyone makes it out of this time successfully. He also welcomed anyone who has any questions or concerns to reach out to their fellow neighbors and help one another.


When asked about how communicating with customers has been during this time, Gail mentions that its actually been quite wonderful and that maximizing their tools, like their CRMs and the extensions of their technologies: email, text messaging and phone calls, communicating with customers has been very easy. He emphasizes the importance of reaching out to customers not to sell them a car, but to let them know they are open and here to help and ensure that the functional operation of a customer’s vehicle is their primary focus. The Group launched a “Click-to-Call, We Will Do The Rest” campaign, which means exactly that. If a customer has any issue or question at all, the Cardinale dealerships are there to help.


The Group has also made keeping their employees motivated a priority during this time. Gail discussed the importance of “being of service,” a statement he mentions the Group lives by in all their stores. Empowering their employees to be ‘of service’ to the men and women in the communities where they serve, is the way to keep people involved and engaged.


Doing business in this unique environment has been a challenge; however Erich K. Gail and the rest of the Cardinale Group of Companies, believe that the automotive industry must take this opportunity to evolve and elevate their way of doing business, so that as a result of this change, customers and guests in any dealership are receiving an enhanced level of service.


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