When Hurricane Sandy slammed into New Jersey, Global Auto Mall in North Plainfield went dark. With no electricity, no heat and a skeleton crew for 13 days, the dealership was prepared and managed to stay open and continue selling cars. How did they do it? With plenty of generators and a cloud-based DMS that allowed them to access all their dealership data. General Sales Manager Rich Locurto talks with Dealertrack about the experience and lessons learned.
DT: Tell us a little bit about Global Auto Mall.
Rich Locurto: We have about 105 employees and sell between 350 and 400 vehicles a month. We carry Chevy, Hyundai, Kia, Jeep and Mitsubishi.
DT: How did the hurricane affect your dealership?
RL: We were without power and heat for 13 days. We sit on a hill, so thankfully we didn’t have any water damage, but our entire service department was shut down during that time. Our mechanics didn’t come in at all. About half the selling team was here. I tried to bring in as many people as I could. We were able to get generators from Home Depot, which kept us going during the day.
DT: Why was it important to stay open?
RL: Look, we knew we weren’t going to sell a lot of cars. We were selling two to three a day. That revenue was important, but we also needed to show the community that we were open for business. Keep in mind people couldn’t get gas or anything. Luckily, we have our own gas tanks, so we were giving employees gas so they could get to work and get home.
DT: How did having a cloud-based DMS help your business during that time?
RL: We were able to bring in laptops and get the Internet going so we could access our system. We didn’t have to use paper and pencil to sell cars. We had access to all our data in real time. That was really helpful since we were making business decisions on the fly.
DT: Natural disasters are a possibility across the entire country, whether it’s an earthquake, tornado or hurricane like you experienced. Do you have any lessons learned to help other dealerships emerge from a natural disaster in the best possible shape?
RL: The Internet-based DMS is definitely the way to go. You don’t realize what you have until you don’t have it anymore. The ability to stay up and running with all our data was a big advantage.
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