0

Auto dealer: 'We cannot go another month'

photo

Ben Albury

By NEIL HARTNELL

Tribune Business Editor

nhartnell@tribunemedia.net

The auto industry “definitely cannot go another month” under the current lockdown conditions imposed on it, one dealer said yesterday, adding: “We cannot let the economy die.”

Ben Albury, Bahamas Bus and Truck’s general manager, told Tribune Business that “responsible businesses” will be able to both enforce the necessary health and safety measures and re-open with minimal risk to staff and customers.

Confirming that the present one-day per week opening for parts sales will not sustain the sector, he revealed that the Bahamas Motor Dealers Association (BMDA) and its members were awaiting “confirmation” that they can also restart the service element of their business.

Pointing out that these two categories complemented each other, Mr Albury warned that the inability to service customer vehicles was creating situations where persons may have to rely on ‘bush mechanics’ to install parts in an environment where protocols such as social distancing may not be present.

The Bahamas Bus and Truck executive added that one-day per week parts opening was also causing long queues where customers “pile up”, threatening social distancing measures.

“I understand the need to open the economy safely, and I understand they’re [the government] feeling their way through this, but the smart thing to do at this stage is if we identify some companies or services that should be open, let’s open them with fewer hours five days a week,” Mr Albury told this newspaper.

“Offer curb side pick-up, delivery and social distancing. There’s a lot that can happen which can be done safely. I was very encouraged by the prime minister’s speech [on Monday] and I’m hoping that’s something that can be done sooner rather than later. I don’t think we can expect the government to prop the economy up like they’ve done in other countries.”

With parts sales alone unable to sustain auto dealerships, Mr Albury said this segment of their business went hand-in-glove with vehicle servicing. “I can sell a part to Ms Jones, but if Ms Jones cannot install the alternator what’s she going to do?” he asked. “What’s she going to do? She’s going to go under the tree or someone will come to her home, and it may be more dangerous.

“There will be social distancing and protocols at my facility. I have been told that we’re still waiting on confirmation that service is supposed to be open. Some places are offering oil changes and other things. We’re trying to get confirmation on that but believe it will be available very soon.

“We have written letters as the BMDA and are just waiting for a response. It’s essential. There’s no other way to do it in my opinion. It’s great is someone needs wind shield wipers or a light bulb but a lot of vehicles need dealer computers to do diagnostics and realign things when brake pads are changed. I’m very optimistic something will be done.”

Mr Albury added that the economic lockdown sparked by the COVID-19 pandemic had “levelled the auto industry just like it had many others”, with dealerships also unable to sell vehicles and reliant on a trickle of income from their parts segments.

He argued that dealer showrooms were likely to be safer than food store queues, given that relatively few persons would be in them at any one time compared to the scores of people waiting to buy groceries in recent weeks. The volume of inquiries received suggest there is pent-up demand from persons “between vehicles”, and the Bahamas Bus and Truck chief argued that opening vehicle sales would help keep money circulating in the Bahamian economy rather than leaking out via online purchases.

“I know we definitely cannot go another month,” Mr Albury told Tribune Business. “A lot of these companies have only just started to turn a profit last year for the first time in many, many years. They continue to pay staff, taxes, and are doing all they can do to keep the industry moving.

“We saw an increase in business last year, and some had increased staffing levels. At Bahamas Bus and Truck we haven’t sent people to the National Insurance Board (NIB). We’re continuing to pay people and hope this will soon be over. We’re trying to be as sympathetic as we can to employees, but at some point we will have to make the tough decisions we don’t want to make.”

He added: “The industry has been talking and discussing quite a lot among ourselves, coming up with a great number of ideas and strategies to protect employees and continue as best we can in the circumstances.

“We’ve put those ideas forward to the Prime Minister in several letters and hopefully we get a favourable response. We appreciate the position the Government is in, and that they are doing the best they can in the circumstances, but at the same time we don’t want to see the economy die.

“We need to get things moving. I think the Government understands that, and I think they’re trying for the same thing. I respect the position they’re in but we need to get together with the Government, the stakeholders, and figure out as much as we can as safely as we can,” Mr Albury continued.

“I think we can manage it in a way that is sensible. I worry that we haven’t seen the true effects of this. I believe responsible businesses will help to enforce this. It needs to be approached carefully, and I think it’s something that can be done successfully. If a business is not following the protocols the Government can put proper measures in place to deal with that.”

Comments

DDK 2 years, 7 months ago

They are not business persons, they haven't s clue. Most sensible suggestions seem to fall on deaf ears. All they care about is that they still have the means to live high off the hog while they play their dangerous political games.

.

1

proudloudandfnm 2 years, 7 months ago

You know it aint like any one industry is being targeted, or any one country. Everyone on earth is going thru this. I'd rather be broke than dead.

1

Well_mudda_take_sic 2 years, 7 months ago

Wow! Would you really rather be an economic slave than dead? Whatever happened to: "Give me liberty, or give me death!"

1

Clamshell 2 years, 7 months ago

Well, that’s an American patriotic slogan, and we all know what you think of Americans ... 🤣

1

xtreme2x 2 years, 7 months ago

I'd rather be broke than dead...I PRAY YOU LIVE FOR EVER AND BROKE...LOL

0

Dawes 2 years, 7 months ago

No problem with this. You can just stay in isolation until a vaccine and the rest of us who want to can go back to work and carry on.

0

TalRussell 2 years, 7 months ago

The Heirs' of the two comrade principals' Bahamas Bus & Truck, should easily qualify to be amongst those in the truest examples of the deep monied pockets, much capable long business operational lastability, as so highlighted by the colony's First amongst equals** aka prime minister.
I'd think that the selling and the servicing motor vehicles, had to have been even that more profitable over the many years, then Comrade Grocer Rupert's, dependency on the unexpected surge profits from the spike at his 12 stores of toilet-papers...and look stretch his extreme self -made wealth. Nod once for yeah, twice for no?

0

TruBeehamian 2 years, 7 months ago

This article is spot-on. Opening one day a week will cause people to 'jam-up' to get the parts they need.

0

The_Oracle 2 years, 7 months ago

Ha, wait Til liquor stores open up, it will be a major fiasco of drunken debauchery! Fellas gonna be horsing back rum before they even reach the cashier! 90% of drivers will be drunk! Will make prior independence beach party celebrations look like a church service! You think food lines were long! All created by the P.M, the self declared tea totaling Competent Authority no less, who does not think through the ramifications if his actions. Nor apparently do his advisors. His A thru Z shopping days mess, unnecessary. Again, he created the panic buying, long lines. His closure of everything followed by opening of support businesses for those who he exempted initially. Flip flopping around reacting to his own mistakes. Amateur at best. Harsh? Not as harsh as the next few years are gonna be.

0

Sign in to comment