Message From The President & CEO Adrian Scovell

COVID-19 has changed the way we live, the way we do business, and our vision of the future of the automotive industry. Unprecedented issues are challenging our members, some of who are under the real threat of losing their businesses. Our industry must learn to adapt to survive. Now, more than ever, the value of a strong association working for its members is being demonstrated. The ARA is taking its role seriously and has adapted to help members survive and thrive.

On day one of the government’s recommendation to self-isolate, we closed the ARA office and staff began working from home. We reassigned staff to concentrate on information gathering and communication to members, government, and stakeholders. In the first week, we sent out a survey to better understand members’ needs so we could find answers and advocate for solutions. We listened to every news broadcast and scoured the Internet for accurate, reliable, information, which we immediately posted to our website at ara.bc.ca. Our site saw a record 9,000 visits in that first week and our survey received an unprecedented 650+ responses.

One of the first challenges industry faced was to simply stay open. The ARA contacted the government’s joint information centre, COVID Provincial Co-Ordination Plan, and explained why our industry is essential.

Simply put: “Any service provider deemed essential relies on the automotive industry to get them from home to work and function while they are at work.”

In response to our lobbying, the government deemed automotive services as essential, allowing our members to remain open during the COVID-19 crisis. However, with less traffic on the roads, there is less demand for vehicle repair and servicing and as seen in our second survey of members, the majority of shops are fighting to remain open due to financial struggles, employee layoffs, and parts supply issues, etc. We have helped where we can, including communicating with suppliers to challenge unwarranted practices such as demanding cash on delivery.

One of the questions the ARA heard frequently was, “Where can we find proper sanitization products?” To solve this, the ARA researched suppliers and partnered with Adhesive Templates, which distributesEnviroNize, a product that shops can use to easily and effectively sanitize vehicles pre- and post- servicing. The initial product offer—at discounted ARA pricing for members—had over a hundred orders.

We need to get back to full operations and the ARA is doing what it can to make it happen. On April 24, the ARA sent a letter to ExecutiveLead Katie Robb, Joint Information Centre, COVID-19 at B.C. Public Service, advocating for an extension to temporary layoffs to reduce financial strain for members. On May 4, to ease financial hardship on businesses and to keep employees connected with their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic, government has extended the temporary layoff period to 16 weeks forCOVID-19 related reasons.

Since inception in 1951, our members have faced challenge after challenge. Each time, the entrepreneurs who make up our membership have found solutions and survived. The ARA has evolved along with them and helped create an environment in which they can thrive. The ARA has seen many changes since its formation nearly 70 years ago, but the foundation has always been the same—we are an association of members looking to better industry for all. COVID-19 is our generation’s challenge and we will fight, adapt, survive, and thrive together.