Arens says he already had dabbled with three-day shifts at the Subaru store in Maine, which has 20 service bays, before the coronavirus pandemic. The group has another Subaru store in Massachusetts and a Nissan store in New Hampshire. It is building an Acura dealership outside Portland.
He went all-in on the concept when social distancing protocols forced technicians to work in every other bay.
"If we can only have half as many technicians working at one time, we need to maintain production without having technicians under a car for eight or nine hours, five days a week," he says. "Plus, we want to keep as many techs working as possible so we don't lose them."
So far, the results are promising. Arens says technicians that were producing 80 hours of flat-rate work during a five-day, roughly 45-hour week before the pandemic now churn out 70 hours of flat-rate work in 36 hours.
That may sound counterintuitive, but Arens explains that technicians start a day out slow and end it slow as they begin to clean about an hour before a shift ends. They also take an hour lunch break. Now there are only three days with those inefficient periods instead of five.
"So they're more efficient, even though they're working fewer hours," he says. "Techs that initially said no to it now love it."
At Hansel, which at peak level had furloughed about 170 fixed ops employees, Long expects most workers to come back. But they'll need to be attuned to treating every customer the way they want to be treated. That may mean wearing masks, using more technology to maintain social distancing or picking up and dropping off vehicles at customers' homes, he says.
"As such, we need incredibly nimble employees that can pay close attention to consumers' preferences," Long explains. "We can be tone-deaf and just sort of lean in, thinking this is temporary. But I don't think that's the case."