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How Dealers and Car Companies Adapted in 2020

Published February 9, 2021


Sheryll Poe, Profile Picture, 175x175

Sheryll Poe


The most successful auto companies and dealers in 2020 were those who adapted their marketing and communications strategies to be more connected with their customers in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic while honoring their legacies, TVB Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer Steve Sturm said during his Thursday session on the NADA Live Stage.

“A dramatic change had to take place in marketing strategies and communications in very short order,” Sturm said about the onset of COVID-19 in March 2020. “The car companies responded very quickly to this with communications strategies that reimagined themselves and repurposed with the right tone.” Sturm pointed to two advertising campaigns: GM Cares, which focused on keeping customers safe and Ford’s Lend a Hand ad, which showcased their commitment to the customer and the dealer.

Dealers also adapted swiftly and used television to get the message out to their communities and customers that they were still there for them throughout the pandemic. “They discovered quickly that customers continued to want to buy cars and service their vehicles, so they amped up their digital platforms to become appointment calendars as well as selling platforms. They added remote selling and servicing to accommodate customers’ needs during the pandemic,” Sturm noted.

As a result, sales revenue and profit margins were among the highest in the industry. “Sales recovered very quickly and the profit margins for the dealers were extremely strong with their commitment to the customer,” Sturm continued.

Looking ahead, there is a lot of optimism from both OEMs and dealerships, according to Sturm. “All car brands and dealers believe 2021 will be a dramatically better year than 2020 was. They all believe that they’re starting off in a much better place, the industry is new and wants to reinvent itself,” he explained.

Digital marketing will continue to play an important role in communications between dealers and customers, but TV continues to be the brand-building platform for both dealers and auto companies. “Connecting the dealer to the digital platforms will be the key to success for dealers this year and provide growth and recovery for 2021,” Sturm said.

TVB is a producing partner for NADA Show 2021. Watch more from Sturm’s session insights and be sure to catch our other coverage from the NADA Live Stage.