Y2K computer problems could be costly for dealers who have no backup plan, and the National Automobile Dealers Association is trying to help.
Its manual, 'Contingency Planning for the Year 2000 Problem,' seeks to help dealers prepare for potential problems.
Even if dealers have modified or replaced computer systems so the machines can read dates past Jan. 1, 2000, experts still expect disruptions. Dealerships depend on suppliers whose computers may not function properly - including banks and utilities.
Overseas suppliers are particularly vulnerable because many countries have spent less time and money than the United States to prepare for the glitch.
'Overseas suppliers for cars or components could have the biggest impact on dealers when it comes to the Year 2000 problem,' said former dealer Paul MacDonald, a Hays, Kan., computer consultant who has prepared the Y2K dealer information for NADA.
Here are some ways MacDonald says dealers can defend against Y2K problems:
Have manual backups for computer systems. Customer records should be stored on disks. Employees must be able to record transactions in ledger books. Finance managers need a way to calculate lease and loan payments through a hand-held computer or a laptop equipped with the F&I software. Service writers must be able to write repair orders by hand.
'We have a generation of employees who have never worked without computers,' said Mac-Donald, emphasizing that employees must be trained to use manual backup systems.
Prepare for power outages. For example, electronic overhead doors should have a manual release. Protect computer systems and shop equipment with power-surge protectors, power strips and uninterrupted power supplies. 'If dealers' computers and shop equipment are just plugged into the wall and there is a power surge, the hard drive could blow up,' said MacDonald.
Install a backup for electronic security systems. A dealership could use dogs to guard the dealership as backup security, said MacDonald.
Study inventory needs to determine how many extra new vehicles are needed if distribution is disrupted.
Stock extra parts and supplies to get the dealership through temporary shortages.
Set up at least two separate bank accounts in case some of the banks fail to fix the computer glitch. Have emergency cash on hand stored in a safe place and limit access to a few key employees.
Renew licenses that expire in the first quarter of 2000. Renew insurance policies that expire in the first quarter of 2000.
Check contracts to make sure vendors are Y2K compliant.
Be sure the dealership has insurance coverage for problems that result from computer malfunctions.
The information is part of the 'Management Series' of guides sent to all NADA members. Extra copies can be obtained by calling (800) 252-6232; the cost is $10 for members and $20 for nonmembers.