Ethics of Communication for Auto Dealers

The fundamentals of communication have changed. With it, the auto industry has a responsibility to consider how we communicate to our customers and prospects.

The ethics of communication during this time call upon us all first and foremost to keep communicating. Now is not the time to pull back but to provide real-time status updates internally and externally, being as transparent as we can, while also ensuring we stay informed.

But understanding these necessities doesn’t mean any of this is easy.

The New Humanitarian wrote:

“Emergency ethics involve hard choices. People have to balance different rights and duties, and often have to demand exceptional tasks (and sacrifices) of particular groups. But, in emergencies, we humans also tend to become more ethical than usual, both as individuals and as collectives. We may panic buy and feel scared, but deep down we also know it is a time for exceptionally ethical conduct and for virtues that we do not always show, like kindness, humanity, courage, selflessness, and a commitment to the common good.”

Thriving during this time requires ethical conduct from businesses, including dealers. How to accomplish that comes down to this:


We’ve all already experienced this, some more harshly than others. Dealerships have closed, good people have been let go or put on furlough, and nothing is as it once was. The most important sacrifices, however, are the ones that responsible dealers are choosing to make to protect themselves, their families, their employees, and their customers and prospects.

Dealers need to look at which vendors are working during this shift to their new reality and cut and consolidate wherever possible. By saving money and focusing on the right vendors, you not only help your business but the people who work for you. Your teams may have shrunk, but the right vendors can help ease the load by automating the daily grind.

You’ve also gone virtual, ensuring additional protection for you and consumers by giving them more options when they can’t leave the house, even delivering purchased vehicles and picking up and dropping off serviced ones. If you aren’t doing this—start. Thorough cleaning of your stores and vehicles is essential but so is peace of mind.


Making these difficult decisions and sacrifices come from strong leaders, and that type of unrelenting leadership is desperately needed. The most successful dealers during this time are the ones whose owners and principals are being the face of their stores, making public announcements on their websites, social media, and often through video to ease public concerns.

Times are not business as usual, and no dealership should be acting like it is. Every customer facing facet of your stores should place front and center how you are addressing the current crisis and altering your practices.

Ethical leadership means communicating clearly, honestly, and regularly your commitment to adapt when needed. While much of the changes occurring have been a sacrifice, they are paving the way for a future that will be more virtual hereafter. Your leadership decisions today are better preparing you for that reality and showing your dedication to easing this difficult and largely transitional time for everyone.


Good leadership means looking beyond the sacrifices and hard times to elevate morale in both employees and your customers and prospects. Consumers are still shopping, they still need to service their vehicles, and they look to you to instill confidence that your stores can deliver what they need safely and on their terms.

As an industry that provides something people generally consider a necessity, as well as an expression of who they are, dealer messaging can and should be hopeful. You are here for them. You are providing deals and services to make their lives easier. You are part of a community that is often charitable in good times as well as bad.

These three components to ethical communication are essential:

  1. Necessary sacrifices and change
  2. Strong leadership, and
  3. Hopeful messaging.

Balance between individual self-interest and societal obligations can be a challenge but is also our responsibility to each other. Be there for your customers and prospects. Communicate openly and encourage them to engage with you through whatever method works best for them.

The world has changed so our communications must as well.

Learn more about how to navigate the current crisis here.