As cities and municipalities across Luzon look forward to easing their respective lockdown measures in the coming weeks, automotive dealers are almost done with their back-to-work initiatives. However, one thing is given: it will not be a return to the status quo as there is no going back to the normal for the foreseeable future.
Automotive dealers have taken varying approaches. While a number made efforts to fast-track their digital transformation to deal with this new kind of “normal” some have transformed their showroom and workplace area into something that would prevent pathogens—the COVID-19, most especially—from coming into contact with a person in the first place.
MyToyota PH digital tool offers convenience
While such drastic initiative is not yet happening here, automotive companies like Toyota Motor Philippines have launched its digital tool, MyToyota PH, that would make owning and maintaining a Toyota easier and more convenient for customers. With MyToyota PH, Toyota owners via their mobile phones, can immediately start setting up an appointment by selecting their preferred dealers. With this tool, Toyota dealerships will now be accommodating confirmed service appointments only to ensure everyone’s safety by limiting the number of people coming to the showroom.
To use the tool that became available last May 4, 2020, Toyota owners can create a MyToyotaPH account on http://mytoyota.ph/ and register their Toyota vehicles. After this, they can immediately start setting up an appointment by selecting their preferred dealers. The tool can also be added to their mobile device’s home screen through the browser’s settings for easier access.
The goal is to ensure that customers and staff can take their place in the showroom and other parts of the dealership without having to fear of getting potentially deadly COVID-19. Since COVID-19 is spread the same way as most respiratory illness—through contact with droplets from the mouth and nose of someone who is infected—social distancing not only means keeping a literal gap between you and other people but also practicing proper hygiene—such as hand washing—to get rid of any contagious droplets.
Wide-ranging options with Hyundai GPS
In the case of Hyundai Asia Resources, Inc. (HARI), the official Philippine distributor of Hyundai passenger and commercial vehicles, is rolling out its Guidelines for Protection and Safety or GPS. Hyundai GPS is a wide-ranging set of health and safety guidelines covering the entire value chain of HARI—importation, assembly, office operations, vehicle delivery to dealerships, showroom operations, sales operations, after-sales, customer relations, test drives, and unit release.
Measures under Hyundai GPS include: social distancing of at least one meter apart; dealership front liners wearing the stipulated PPE gear; installation of sanitation booths equipped with thermal scanners and sanitizing material for incoming customers and employees; posting of safety reminders and availability of antibacterial sprays in all key areas—showroom, service bays, customer lounges, and toilets; provision of surgical masks, alcohol and hand sanitizers to customers; disinfection services including the option to fumigate new and serviced vehicles; for test drives and other transactions, the regular wiping down of all “high contact points,” such as car door handles, steering wheels, and car keys; and regular sanitation of dealerships and parts warehouse.
And just like a number of automotive dealerships, HARI is also intensifying its virtual collaboration tools to ensure “no-contact” transactions and engagement with customers in the near future. Presently, HARI has online channels to access Hyundai CARES (Customer Assistance and RESponse): email@example.com and through @hyundaiph on Facebook Messenger.
Maxus to impose safety protocols
Of course, customers will be welcomed with the same level of courtesy, expertise, and professionalism despite the additional guidelines to guarantee personal protection and health, according to Maxus Philippines GM Reginald See. “All customers, whether walk-in or scheduled, should wear face masks. The dealer will be providing face masks in case the customers forget to bring theirs. The face masks should be worn at all times, especially when customers are inside the premises of the dealership.
It is also encouraged for customers to maintain a distance of at least one meter from personnel and other customers when they are inside the premises of the auto company. They are also urged to use hand sanitizers, which will be available in designated sites.”
He added that at the invoicing or billing area, Maxus workers will wear gloves and masks while maintaining proper physical distancing protocols. “Disinfected pens will be provided to customers for signing documents. Payment cards will also be sanitized before and after a transaction. Before handing over to the customers, change for money payments will also undergo disinfection.”
Volkswagen ready for altered behavior
In his message to dealer owners and executives, Volkswagen Philippines president Felipe Estrella said the current situation has transformed and altered the condition and behavior of the global population, businesses, the market, and the consumers in general. “The sense and assurance of safety in gatherings, social contact, crowds and visits to establishments may never be the same in the near future as a result of the pandemic.”
Estrella added: “The same will apply to our businesses, including our most valued dealerships. It will be very vital that we collectively create an environment wherein our customers’ safety, health and well-being are our utmost priority by the time we are allowed to operate and our customers are allowed to visit our dealerships once again. With this, we recommend certain guidelines, procedures and systems in order to ensure our readiness and guarantee the safety of everyone.”
As of May 4, Volkswagen Cagayan de Oro in Mindanao region, which is placed under GCQ, is already open from Mondays to Saturdays (9 am to 5 pm).
KIA’s 9-step guide ensures safety for all
Another Ayala-owned automotive firm has also instituted similar set up in their dealerships. The Philippine subsidiary of the Korean automaker has issued a 9-Step Guide to Facility Preparation before allowing employees to report for work. This involved disinfecting all areas and maintaining regular sanitation practices, posting proper markings for physical distancing (about 2 meters), installing sanitizing and hand washing solutions at strategic locations, ensuring that all areas were properly ventilated, among other guidelines.
Moreover, Kia Philippines provided a 9-Step Guide for Employee Preparation which included assigning a Dealer Health and Safety representative to check on employees’ health with CoViD-19 rapid test kits for administration to employees every two weeks, providing shuttle services or arrangement of car pools to avoid taking public transportation, subjecting each one to a thermal scan before entry and a “no mask, no entry policy,” encouraging them to avoid handing out business cards or any material that may be a source of virus, among other regulations. And just like a number of its counterparts, Kia Philippines dealership network will also be implementing flexible working hours, shifting or skeletal workforce and staggered break time schedules to keep the number of people in the office to a minimum.
Starting May 4, six Kia dealers in the Visayas and Mindanao will resume its operations from Mondays to Saturdays: (with operating hours from 8 am to 5 pm) Kia Dumaguete, Kia Leyte, Kia General Santos, (with operating hours from 9 am to 4 pm) Kia Cagayan De Oro, Kia Iligan, (with operating hours from 9 am to 5 pm) Kia Butuan.
Honda takes cue from accepted processes
Likewise, Honda Cars Philippines, Inc. (HCPI), Honda’s automobile unit in the Philippines, announced that it has resumed last May 4 its dealer sales and after-sales operations at select Honda Cars dealerships located in General Community Quarantine (GCQ) areas. And like the rest of dealerships, they will be requiring that all customers must wear face masks while inside the dealership and must sanitize their hands before entering and while inside the dealership premises. All customers and dealer associates will be scanned for body temperature before entering the dealership premises. Those with a body temperature of 38 degrees Celsius and above will not be allowed to enter.
While hand sanitizers will be available at strategic locations., dealer associates will be required to wear prescribed PPEs. For more information regarding Honda’s COVID-19 prevention guidelines, visit the Honda Cars Philippines, Inc. official website at www.hondaphil.com., or contact the nearest authorized Honda Car dealerships.
Given how quickly the entire Philippine economy and especially car dealerships have been forced to deal with a near-total dropoff in consumer activity under Luzon-wide lockdown implemented since March 17, the upcoming easing of lockdown measures is a sure welcome. In fact they are optimistic that in the weeks ahead, the automotive industry will zip out of this crisis, healthier, stronger and more resilient.
Charles E. Buban is an old timer in the Philippine automotive journalism scene. He first started covering the automotive beat in 2003, writing news and reviews of new models and car tech, among other car-related stuff. When not writing about cars, he could often be seen riding his mountain bike or doing long walks in the hope of catching a couple of legendary Pokemons.