As the world goes on lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, one of the hardest hit is the automotive industry.
The same is true in the CNMI. The auto-dealership business has been negatively impacted financially, sales and rentals have dropped, and on top of that, they had to expeditiously come up and embrace processes and protocols that would ensure the health and safety of their customers and staff.
Atkins Kroll vice president and general manager Clark Boswell said that the pandemic has affected them in countless ways, mainly a big decline in sales. Their Service, Body Shop, and Parts departments have been more stable.
“Auto sales in March for the CNMI saw a decrease of 68% versus March of last year. That is a huge drop off. For the first three months of this year compared to 2019, the auto market is down around 40%.”
Atkins Kroll’s rental car department also has a big decline in sales, being dependent on tourist arrivals.
Despite the pandemic, it is business as usual for the company. Atkins Kroll has enacted measures in accordance with the COVID-19 Task Force guidelines, and implemented their own as well, to keep customers and staff safe.
“We’re doing temperature screening at our road entrance, maintaining social distancing throughout our customer areas and workplace, encouraging the use of masks, and we have doors designated for entrance and exit only,” Boswell said.
Areas of high traffic are sanitized throughout the day, and Plexiglas barriers were put up in areas where staff and customers interact face-to-face.
“For test drives, and also for our Service customers bringing their cars in, we are using disposable steering wheel covers and sanitizing certain areas that are commonly touched. We’re doing our best to keep Atkins Kroll a safe environment where employees and customers alike feel comfortable.”
Boswell is confident that vehicles will continue to be in demand in the CNMI, but that it will take a full recovery of the tourism market before the islands see the car market reach 2018 or 2019 sales levels again.
“The auto business will be sustainable, but there are technologies and advancements that are creating some disruption and changes. All of the major manufacturers like Toyota are adapting to these changes—as are businesses like Atkins Kroll.”
The pandemic is changing all industries, with extra emphasis on health and safety of both employees and customers.
“I think we’ve learned recently that to successfully operate as a business in these times, your staff and your customers must feel safe enough to come to work.”
Atkins Kroll is open from 8am to 5pm, Monday through Saturday.