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Ivet Rodríguez / Expansión

For two months, the sales floors of nearly 3,000 car dealerships in Mexico have been closed as part of the measures taken in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. For many, the workshop became their only source of income.

There are dealers for whom the sale of new vehicles represents up to 60% of their profits, so the closure of sales floors made for an unexpected cut to more than half of their income. To keep the businesses afloat, vehicle dealers worked with manufacturers to develop online sales strategies, but also to offer new services in their workshops.

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Almost all brands started offering their customers the possibility of having their vehicle picked up at home, taken to the workshop, and then returned. But there were others that went even further.

Fiat Chrysler, for example, has recently launched a new cleaning and sanitization service for cars from all its brands, using a solution designed by the company which eliminates 99.9% of bacteria, fungi and viruses, including the one that causes the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

The sanitization service, at 499 pesos, includes cleaning air ducts and permeable surfaces inside the vehicle, as well as disinfecting the surfaces and areas of greatest contact such as door handles, armrests, the touch screen, the gear lever and the steering wheel, to mention but a few.

“Now, instead of concentrating on the vehicle, we are putting customer health at the center of the strategy. As a group, in North America, we’ve developed a product called the Bioesque Solution, which is an eco-friendly liquid that does not damage the interior trim of vehicles,” said Svein Azcué, director of Mopar Mexico, the spare parts division of Fiat Chrysler, in an interview.

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In the last few days, the brand has offered this disinfection service free to all essential workers, such as doctors, delivery employees, and patrol car fleets.

“There are some customers who are doctors who have asked us to go to the hospitals for their cars to perform the santization service. Once finished, we take them back to the hospital,” says Azcué.

The brand has also launched do-it-yourself cleaning kits at the official Mopar store on both Amazon and Mercado Libre, so that customers can clean the bodywork and interiors of their vehicles at home.

“We believe that that time customers used to spend in traffic can now be spent on car maintenance,” he says.

Another brand that has seen sanitization as an opportunity to boost the income of its dealers is Jaguar Land Rover, which has launched a new disinfection service for the air conditioning system. It has a new filter that, according to Jorge Ocampo, director of Customer Service at Jaguar Land Rover, helps prevent viruses from entering the vehicle cabin.

“While the brand’s dealerships saw a decrease in demand for mechanical services during the pandemic, many customers are approaching us looking for these new vehicle sanitization services,” says Ocampo.

The vehicle maker has also been researching how to use ultraviolet light (which is already used in hospitals) to disinfect water, filter air, and sterilize surfaces, thereby cleaning the air in the cabin of their cars and helping stop the spread of colds and flu.

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