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Inside Mazda

Operating in Your Wheelhouse: What a Dealership Does Best Matters to Frontline Workers

Mazda Cares featuring John Patterson Mazda

This is Mazda Cares. In light of COVID-19, we’re sharing stories of how our Mazda family is coping with (and even combatting) the crisis. Tracing back to our Hiroshima roots, Mazda has a deep history of helping communities in times of need. Our aim is to share stories that highlight our belief that what matters most is one another — because through the power of humanity and community, we can overcome any challenge.

The COVID-19 pandemic and its broad-reaching societal effects have left individuals and small and large business owners asking the question, “what can I do to help?”

During this time of great national need on many fronts, many automotive companies are discovering their greatest immediate utility can be achieved by leaning straight into their core competency: Vehicle service and maintenance.

Mazda, for its part, initiated its Essential Car Care program which offered free oil changes and enhanced cleaning services to qualified healthcare workers. The program was inspired by several local Mazda dealers across the country who began offering similar grassroots services to their communities, including John Patterson of Tustin and Huntington Beach Mazda.

Patterson, who is the President of OC Auto Team, knew he wanted his dealerships to give back in some way — but his team needed to come first.

Huntington Beach Mazda service staff are still working to provide a safe environment at the dealership for both owners and their teammates.

“I’d love it if a huge epiphany led us to do this,” says Patterson. “When our SBA [Small Business Assistance] loan was approved I was like, ‘great, I can keep the team working.’ We’ve never had to ask for assistance and this coming through felt like a sigh of relief. Then I thought, ‘how can we reach out with this?’”

Patterson considered having the team volunteer, but when he heard about a dealer back east doing free oil changes for healthcare workers, it just felt right. “I thought — why not do that? It’s what we do anyway.”

Given that each of Patterson’s Mazda stores is located just minutes from major hospitals, the idea of providing free-of-charge oil changes to medical professionals felt like the ideal way to support their community. “This isn’t in their wheelhouse, but it is in ours. By doing what’s in our wheelhouse we can ease their experience.”

Patterson and his team quickly got to work. They filmed a spot on April 6 and posted it to the dealerships’ social channels the next day. By April 8 people started coming in, and the numbers have steadily grown. “It built up — at first it was two or three people in a day, but since then it’s gotten up to as many as 11 a day across our dealerships.”

That isn’t all Patterson’s team is doing to support their community. Service loaners are making the process easier by allowing program recipients to “drop off their car and go about their day at work or get rest and not worry.”

When asked how the program has been received, Patterson notes that: “This has generated a lot of goodwill, and really that’s the whole point. Right now doing business is less about making a car deal. It’s a matter of sharing grace and supporting those taking care of everyone [during] a really challenging time.”

“This experience is so new that it’s hard to wrap it all up into words,” says Patterson. His team appreciates that the program gave them the opportunity to be busy when business would otherwise be slow — but it’s so much more than that. “They know that what they’re doing is helping — it gives a sense of purpose and pride to help the community in this way.”