CALGARY -- With the market price for Canadian oil plunging to less than US$8 per barrel and the COVID-19 virus continuing to spread, Alberta auto dealers are reeling.
Dealerships are cutting staff, shortening hours and instituting sterilization and “social distancing” measures as they struggle to keep the doors open.
Jim McManes, president of the McManes Auto Group which has 16 dealerships — 12 in Alberta and the others spread across Manitoba and British Columbia — says the result is “devastating.”
“Obviously it’s difficult to determine which has had the greatest impact, but it’s way worse than 2008-2009 ever was,” he says. “The uncertainty of how long it will last makes it difficult to plan. It’s a day-to-day thing.”
He says dealerships in his group have reduced hours and each store has laid off “25 to 30” people, which means layoffs total more than 400.
“All we can do is support our people as best we can,” he says, adding “we’ve sold some cars, but it’s slow, and service departments are working although some appointments are no-shows.”
He sees no quick end to the situation.
“This is going to last four to six weeks minimum and probably longer.”