Dealerships reopen after COVID-19 shutdown

June 3, 2020

Car dealership sales departments in Ontario and Quebec have reopened with social distancing and public health measures in place to protect customers and staff. At this time, the APA`s buying service, with its tradition of fair dealing from people you can trust and transparent pre-negotiated pricing is even more valuable if you don`t want to be kicking tires all over town. If you must have a vehicle, the APA new car reviews, new car pricing information, and network of reliable dealers selected by the association are likely to be your best ticket to a positive purchase experience while maintaining physical distancing. For a look at car buying today, the APA checked in with Ken Shaw Lexus Toyota in Toronto. Here`s the APA`s interview with dealer principal, Paul Shaw:

APA: Are people coming back into the market right now?

Paul Shaw: We`re seeing about 50% of our regular customer traffic and reached about 60% of our sales volume compared to last May (2019). Traffic is growing every week, but we haven`t brought everyone back yet; some salespeople are more comfortable at home, particularly if they or someone else at home are in a high-risk group. People who are shopping really need a car -- about a third of our business in May was lease renewals.

We`re not seeing a rush by shoppers toward more frugal vehicles or to lower car payments. In early April, we had customers reaching out to us for relief. We referred them to Toyota Financial Services and most were able to arrange payment deferrals. In all, I estimate we received about 20 requests from people who reached out for support rather than defaulting on their car payments.

APA: Are people shopping differently?

Paul Shaw: People are shopping more by email; they`re more likely to write to a number of dealers to ask for your best price instead of visiting in person. I don’t believe they are better served that way, though, because some salespeople send unrealistic pricing just to get customers into their dealerships. Some shoppers expect better deals because our businesses were closed and they`re partly right; we are pricing more competitively. We sold eight cars last Saturday, most from inventory, but some are dealer trades or for future delivery. There is concern that delivery dates for vehicles on order could be impacted by supply chain disruptions -- we`re informing customers that delivery dates could be off.

APA: What looks different in your showroom?

Paul Shaw: There`s a table right at our front door with a sanitization station, including face masks and gloves if you want them. All cars are sanitized and disinfected regularly with the time of the last cleaning posted on the dash. We`ve installed plastic screens at reception, at sales desks and in the service department. The chairs in the waiting area in service are separated or roped off. We removed the touch screens that were available for clients. ​



Paul Shaw
Dealer Principal, Ken Shaw Lexus Toyota




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The cleaner we use comes in a 4L jug of concentrate, and is used in hospitals and restaurants. We use a dilution of it in a spray bottle for surfaces like door handles, steering wheels, gearshift knobs. Protective equipment and cleaners are now more easily available; we keep a back-up supply but have no more concern about running out.

APA: How are customers responding?

Paul Shaw: People are very responsible. We`ve all seen the reports about (people not maintaining physical distancing in) beaches and parks. But in our showroom, people are doing their part. We have yet to experience an entire family with kids coming in to the dealership. We find half the people are taking the masks and gloves we offer at reception, and some people are coming in with their own.

APA: How is vehicle delivery?

Paul Shaw: It`s very different. Basically, it`s "Here`s your car, here are your keys -- call us with your questions so we maintain social distancing." Both before and after delivery, our staff is using FaceTime and Zoom to educate the customer. We`ve had salespeople stand outside the car to maintain distancing for the vehicle demonstration, and there is a push to directing people to the website for how-to information. It really comes down to us following the rules and the customer`s comfort zone. For some people, it`s "Throw me the keys." They want to get in and out as quickly as possible. On balance, older people, say 60 plus, appear to be more concerned about distancing. Other people -- usually younger -- tend to be more relaxed.


Time of last cleaning noted on vehicle dash


Time of last cleaning close-up


Protective plastic screens at sales and service reception areas



Related COVID-19 Articles 

June 3: Dealerships reopen after COVID-19 shutdown

April 26: Personal Automobile and Property Insurance

April 17: Expiring Warranties & Repairs

March 31: Leasing and Suspending Finance Payments

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