This story is the latest in MTD’s exclusive series of articles about how the COVID-19 crisis is impacting independent tire dealers. Stay tuned to www.moderntiredealer.com for more!
When MTD recently contacted Chris Mitsos, vice president of Mountain View Tire & Service Inc., which has 31 stores throughout southern California, he was busy navigating the nuances of the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security) Act and its financial support opportunities.
Based on his calculations, “we’ll be able to qualify for a fairly large amount of money."
At the time, the dealership had laid off 50 employees – most of them general service technicians “and a few salespeople.”
The reason? A 50% drop in car count.
“Our car count is down and our revenue is 50% down,” Mitsos told MTD. “They go hand-in-hand with one another. We track all of our incoming phone calls. They’re down 50%. It’s across the board – extremely linear."
Most of Mountain View Tire's stores are “in the suburbs of Los Angeles,” he notes. “Our LA stores are struggling more than our stores that are in the outer suburban belt of the city. The other place we’re suffering is in the desert. We have one store in LaQuinta, Calif., and two in Palm Desert, Calif.,” both of which are more than 100 miles from the center of Los Angeles.
“Most of the people out there are over 70 years old. Those folks are not coming out – and for good reason.”
Unlike some other dealerships, Mountain View Tire isn’t in a position to offer valet, pick-up-at-home services, according to Mitsos “We don’t have the manpower to send two people to someone’s house to pick up a car and drop it back off. We just don’t have that luxury.”
However, the company has taken measures at its stores to enforce social distancing.
“The first thing we did was take all the chairs out of our showrooms,” he says. “We left one or two chairs outside at a safe distance apart. We are discouraging customers from waiting in our showrooms. Most of them have been very happy to drop off their cars and not wait in the store.”
Store managers have been instructed to sanitize “touchpoints” thoroughly and at regular intervals.
“It’s really for our employees’ safety so that is somebody is a (COVID-19) carrier, things are being wiped down often enough that if there is some viral matter that has been left somewhere, it gets (eliminated.)
“We’re also using steering wheel covers. And we’re using disposable gloves that food handlers use.”
‘Know your costs’
In the meantime, Mitsos and the rest of Mountain View Tire's management team are looking for savings at every level.
For instance, the dealership recently canceled a service contract with a local elevator maintenance company, which will save it $700 per quarter. (Mountain View’s main office in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., contains a never-used elevator.)
“We’re going over every single thing and that’s what it’s going to take.”
He recommends that other tire dealers follow suit. “You have to look at where every dollar is going. It’s really important to know your fixed and variable costs and try to project what you think you are going to sell. It’s not going to come back (right away.) We’re going to be in this for a while.
“Know what your costs are going to be over the next six months,” he advises. “Figure out what you can and cannot live without.”
Mitsos says he is looking forward to recalling all of his laid-off employees. “That means we’re back to our normal sales levels.”
That said, he believes that “things will never be back to the way they were on Jan. 1 of this year. I think we’ll get close to that – possibly starting in September. I don’t see anything changing during the summer. Maybe by the first quarter of 2021, we will be hitting home runs again.”
Other stories in this series: