During the pandemic, some area residents used stimulus money from the federal government to make a down payment on a new vehicle, Allen Turner said.
Turner has been in the car dealership business for about 40 years. He opened Allen Turner Chevrolet in Crestview in 2014.
Coronavirus-caused economic uncertainty has “absolutely” factored into many people’s car-buying decisions, he said.
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Chevrolet and other car manufacturers have come up with strong incentives such as loans with 0% interest, but, “If you’re not sure about your income, then you’re not going to make a major purchase,” Turner said. “And if you’re not driving your car, you don’t need an oil change or brake service.”
Like many other business owners, Turner and other area auto dealers continue to do their best to keep their businesses on track during the rollercoaster that is the coronavirus crisis.
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“As a business owner, I tried to stabilize (the ups and downs) early on to ensure all our employees remain employed,” Turner said. “The government stimulus has helped.”
He said he is proud of the way his team has adjusted.
“We continued to believe God was going to provide,” Turner said. “There were times when people didn’t feel comfortable being out. Children couldn’t go to school, and some people had no childcare provision, so we tried to work through that.”
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Moving forward, staying safe will be the top priority, Turner said.
“First, we have to make sure it’s a safe place to come to work and for customers for whatever needs they have,” he said.
He said he is seeing more people purchase their vehicles online and have them delivered to their home, and more auto repair customers having their car picked up and dropped off by dealership staff.
In DeFuniak Springs, sales have been down for the past couple of months or so at Triangle Chevrolet and Genesis Automotive, said Eric Joyner, a co-owner of both businesses.
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Triangle Chevrolet has been in business since 1971. Genesis Automotive opened its doors in 2006.
“Our numbers have been down at both stores with the uncertainty of the community, anywhere from financially to just being scared of the virus,” Joyner said. “Everything happening has set us back, because buying a new car isn’t a necessity for most people.”
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Fortunately, business at the stores’ service departments has remained steady, said Joyner, who also said no employees at either dealership had to be laid off.
“God has been faithful to us,” he said. “Business keeps coming back as things improve.”
He said hand sanitizer is being provided at the two stores, more space has been created between customers in waiting areas and only one to two people, rather than a group, are in an office at a time.
“We believe things need to get back to a sense of normalcy as quick as they can,” Joyner said. “We’ve been doing more smiling and waving than handshaking and hugging.”
At Beach Cars in Fort Walton Beach, regular clients of the 12-year-old business have been staying away, Beach Cars owner Kory Ghulinyan said.
“We’re still selling one here and there, but it’s nowhere near where it used to be,” Ghulinyan said.