Amidst the COVID-19 tragedy, the entire world economy is prepping itself for a dearth future. Difficult times are inevitable and like many industries, the world auto industry is also plummeting. According to reports, the auto industry faces both a supply side and a demand side pressure due to the spread of the coronavirus.
As a country that depends completely on imports, Nepal’s auto industry is also set to bear the brunt of the effects of COVID-19. And, the nationwide lockdown to prevent the spread of the coronavirus has further deepened the woes of automobile dealers in Nepal. The auto sector which was already reeling under the pressure of slowing demand and a myriad of challenges, is now struggling with the COVID-19 lockdown and this unprecedented lockdown has understandably led to questions about how auto dealers are responding to this crisis.
We had the opportunity to discuss the matters and the actions being taken by some of the leading automotive distributors in the country during these difficult times. Excerpts below.
Executive Director, Chaudhary Group
Our primary objective is to ensure the safety of everyone associated with the company and their families. We are staying in constant contact with all of our associates to stay updated about their wellbeing. Regarding the business, everything has currently come to stand still, but we have tried to remain in contact with our customers through digital medium and by helping them with any queries that they have.
Customer interest needs to be taken care off as well, for which we have initiated several aftersales initiatives. We have also put maintenance support on standby to provide services where and when possible. For instance, we will be running a 7-day check-up camp as soon as the government puts an end to the ongoing lockdown.
The fact that many of the companies in our industry have come together to do something or the other, even in these times, is applaud able. We are consolidating our position and drawing plans on how to land on our feet once things normalise.
Deputy Manager- Marketing, Volkswagen Nepal
The entire world is struggling to cope with this outbreak and all sectors face some form of disruption. The automobile industry is not an exception. We hope we will be able to overcome this barrier as soon as possible. While the impact of these times will bring changes in the socio economic behaviour and thinking of the masses, it will also bring along a rise in the use of the digital platform and digital payment system.
Auto dealers should be active in the digital platform and maintain a strong digital footprint. This can be done by training their members to be digitally active and smart. The use of virtual medium, like 3d videos, can be used to give realistic experiences and we should focus on paperless transaction.
At our end, we will be constantly divulging the necessary information to our customers (current and prospective), through the digital media so that they can make an informed judgement if and when they decide to buy again. We can provide customers with test drives/bookings and delivery at their convenience, be it at their home or office with a simple click.
As people might feel reluctant to visit showrooms, we will help ease the mind by making sure proper safety precautions are adopted to keep the safety of our customers and employees in top priority. For service, we are working on free disinfecting of cars, touch less pick and drop facilities, touch less key drop facilities etc. We will be providing special offers for frontline staffs like Doctors and Nurses. Although things are still uncertain, we hope that we will overcome it very soon and come up with futuristic and advance channels to connect with customers.
This lockdown though anticipated came very suddenly, so we were not able to prepare ourselves as well as we would have liked. We have left what we were doing and went into the lockdown. We do understand and support the government’s decision to lockdown the whole country. However, after all this is over, we need to go back to our respective jobs. So we can use this time to develop relations with our customers and work on our capacity development as professional auto traders.
Once things normalize, our main focus will be our staff and their safety. Our sales and service team will be ready to facilitate all the customers who are facing problems after the long term storage of the vehicle. We will try to deliver all the pending vehicles promptly, and Kia Motor group has extended the warranty period of all of our eligible vehicles.
The impending competition in the auto-industry is inevitable after the lockdown is over as all the auto importers will want to offload their stock as quickly as possible. However, we will have to see how things go as the slow market has affected the industry even before the lockdown. As the largest tax paying industry for the government we really hope the government will come up with a strategy to revive the auto industry in Nepal.
AGM, Pioneer Motocorp (Datsun and Nissan)
The Nepalese auto industry was already facing a very time tough time even before the COVID - 19 lock down due to unfavourable market situation specially due to the negative prospective of the government towards the industry. It is certain that the near future is more challenging after the lockdown. It will be most necessary that the government take this pandemic very seriously and must change its perspective to the highest revenue generating industry. The government must at least launch some consumer friendly policy for auto buyers like low equity of consumers, best possible interest rates etc. to revive the industry.
Mahesh Kumar M,
General Manager, United Traders Syndicate (Toyota)
It is very difficult to analyze the market since most countries are severely affected with the COVID-19 pandemic. Nepal is especially vulnerable being a land locked country and we are mainly dependent on import. However, to support our clients in this time of crisis, we are providing emergency services to essential vehicles like ambulance, health-care staffs vehicles, and also diplomats vehicle. This is our core responsibility for now, which is to support the Nation and help fight the crisis.
Hopefully, the auto market will find its footing after 2 months and there won't be too much of a disturbance in the auto sales in the market. We think that the automobile market percentage will gradually increase after the lock down. The situation was even worst at the time of 2015 earthquake and border lock down, during that time we had faced some concerns but we were able to be back on track within a month’s time. In this current situation, Toyota will be back on track promptly. Furthermore, we should be optimistic since Nepal is not struggling as badly as other countries, and the market will possibly see growth within 6 months.
Head-Marketing, IME Motors
Everything seems uncertain as of now. This unprecedented crisis will further add to the woes of the auto sector. However, we should look for new ways to embrace this sudden change. This can be done through by introducing an online sales platform where we can create and manage demand through live bookings and introduce a virtual tour of the showroom. Similarly, the service area is another aspect which should be taken care of.
These methods, if implemented, will help the dealers maintain a fair level of business until the lockdown ends. Also, it will help us to strengthen our connection with the customers by providing an extra value.