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GM, Ford and FCA fight for customers with increased service and deals

Jamie L. LaReau and Phoebe Wall Howard, Detroit Free Press on

Published in Automotive News

Emergency room nurse Adam Blanton doesn't have any extra time to drive 90 minutes to the car dealership, especially during a public health crisis.

Blanton is also a volunteer firefighter and U.S. Army reservist. So Blanton, 32, was thrilled to get his 2020 Chrysler Pacifica minivan delivered to him on a flatbed truck Thursday afternoon.

"My wife works days. I work nights," Blanton said. "She's an X-ray tech. My wife is having another baby so we needed more room."

Their family schedule is crazed and concierge car service made their car purchase go more quickly, with signing papers at home.

"We are expanding and making it happen," said Thad Szott, co-owner of Szott Auto Group in metro Detroit, whose flatbed truck delivered the Pacifica to Blanton.

"This is the best spirit of America right now," said Szott. "Everybody is rising to the top. Some dealerships may go by appointment only or even close. Not us. People have to keep their vehicles running and get to the doctor or grocery store."

 

The Detroit Three automakers and many of their dealers are finding creative ways to keep business moving as people hunker down in their homes amid the coronavirus crisis. All three companies offer finance deals on new cars, online shopping and other services. And if it means picking up customers' cars for oil changes, repairs or delivering a new car to someone's doorstep, dealers are doing it.

'So people feel safe'

Analysts estimate the coronavirus crisis could cost the auto industry millions in car sales and service business. But most dealers can sell vehicles with little in-person interaction, a new report from J.D. Power said. It predicts the use of online buying and car delivery services will rise significantly given current conditions.

"Increasing consumer awareness of new ways to purchase and receive delivery of a vehicle will be a key activity for manufacturers and retailers in the coming weeks," the J.D. Power report said.

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