COVID-19 has changed our world, and that certainly includes the auto industry. One impact is the emphasis now being placed on vehicle hygiene. With no end in sight to the current pandemic, we need to embrace an industrywide commitment to consumer and team member safety.
With car shoppers on high alert about the potential of contracting coronavirus, there’s never been a better time to prioritize vehicle sanitization and disinfection. And, while temporary cleaning solutions may offer a quick fix, identifying and implementing a long-term answer to sustainable vehicle hygiene will become essential to eliminating fear, winning customer trust and providing peace of mind to everyone, every time they get in a vehicle.
Transporting People and, Unfortunately, Germs, Too
Vehicles have always been vectors for germs. On average, there are more than 700 different strains of bacteria living in the interior of a car. In fact, according to a study conducted by Car Rentals LLC., the typical car interior is 2,144 times dirtier than your average smartphone, which is widely known to be crawling with bacteria. Steering wheels were also found to be four times dirtier than a public toilet seat. While most bacteria in the car are harmless, some of the strains found in the interior of the car can be dangerous.
While it’s vital to select sanitization and disinfection products that kill germs, bacteria and viruses, it’s equally important to use products that have been tried and tested in the automotive industry. Don’t settle for just any off-the-shelf options, even if they offer immediate cost-savings.
Product Evaluation Process:
- Clean — Sanitizing versus disinfecting … what’s the difference, and do people care? Cleaning is NOT Disinfecting. Identify and use products on the EPA approved list.
- Eco-conscious — What are the long-term effects of these in-vehicle cleaning products on the environment?
- Vehicle and People Friendly — What’s the chemical makeup of these disinfectants? Will it harm the materials in the car — hard and soft surfaces — and the people they are designed to protect? After all, many disinfectants are pesticides and can be hazardous to your health.
- Protection Longevity — Does it provide both surface and air protection, and for how long? Will it continue to kill on contact? Don’t be fooled, as no products can make this claim.
What Consumers Want
The good news? The majority of consumers value a “clean” vehicle and are willing to pay a little extra in some cases. According to the 2020 Cox Automotive COVID-19 Consumer & Impact Study, 83% of consumers say it’s extremely or very important to disinfect vehicle surfaces after a test drive, and 68% of consumers say it’s extremely or very important to disinfect the air in the vehicle after a test drive. Moreover, more than two-thirds of vehicle owners say they will pay $20 or more for vehicle sanitization.
Like many other new product offerings, education will play a significant role in the widespread acceptance of enhanced vehicle sanitization services. This communication is not only critical to building confidence and making consumers feel comfortable again, and it offers dealers an opportunity to show leadership with a differentiated service offering.
Explaining how you’re treating vehicles at every turn and touchpoint, and the strict procedures you’re following is essential. Why are you performing them? What products are you using? Where are you applying these solutions? What process are you using to apply them?
Exploring What Works For You
Various solutions are now being introduced across the industry, but it’s important to select the option that best serves the needs of your customers and dealership.
Committed to keeping vehicles and people as safe and healthy as possible, Cox Automotive Mobility introduced a vehicle hygiene product solution and service, PureProtect by RideKleen, providing vehicle disinfection and air cleanse protection.
PureProtect by RideKleen kits feature an eco-conscious cleaner that sanitizes, disinfects and protects the entire vehicle, including the interior cabin, A/C ventilation system, trunk and cargo areas. This EPA-registered and approved antimicrobial cleaner is approved for use on hard and soft surfaces and kills up to 99.9% of germs, bacteria, mold, mildew and emerging viruses.
Accepting the Inevitable
Just like 9/11 made the travel industry rethink its security procedures, COVID-19 will lead to new disinfection processes focused on the overall well-being of vehicles and consumers. And, while many people scoffed at these increased and, at times, inconvenient security measures, they soon became widely accepted.
Only time will tell how long the COVID-19 pandemic will last, but the “new normal” of vehicle hygiene is here and it’s here to stay.
Dr. Rikin Patel is Chief Operating Officer at RideKleen.