COVID-19

For valet services, business in the time of COVID-19 is anything but 'as usual'

Valet parking companies have been presented with unique challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Photo by CHUYN/Getty Images

As restaurants and shopping centers gradually open up and expand services, one less-often thought of aspect of the industry is having to adapt its entire business model. Valet parking companies cannot simply offer to-go services or limit the number of people shopping at any one time.

According to the American Public Transportation Association, traveling by public transportation was 10 times safer per mile than traveling by automobile in 2019. However, with the influx of coronavirus cases, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has shifted its guidance on using public transportation, even listing it as one of the riskier behaviors for transmission of the disease.

Data published by Apple Maps shows that requests for transit information continue to remain low while driving information is continuing to gain steam, indicating that more people are taking to the road instead of opting for public transportation as to keep their possibility of exposure to the virus to a minimum. This also means that they're busy looking for parking spots and remain dubious about valet parking.

Phoenix Parking Solutions owner Jeff Patterson sees both sides of the issue, "The normal valet process is the opposite of what should be happening during this pandemic. Right now, people are hesitant to valet their cars, and rightly so. A valet handing you a paper ticket in close proximity does not feel safe during COVID-19."

Patterson, whose business mainly consists of restaurant, country clubs, retail, and event clients, operates in the State of Georgia, in an industry that remains largely unregulated. He chose to educate himself on the dangers of COVID-19 specifically relating to the valet industry using resources provided by the National Parking Association. The organization, of which he is a member, offered sanitation seminars. He also collaborated with peers in the hospital valet space to replicate procedures that were designed by medical facilities.

"We've created a cashless, contactless solution for valet so our clients can still offer their guests a trustworthy first-class parking option," Patterson said.

According to a release, this is how Phoenix's protocol works:

  • As guests pull up to the valet stand, a Phoenix valet driver approaches the car wearing a mask and opens the door handle using a sanitizing wipe before backing away (a minimum of six feet) as guests exit the car.
  • Guests provide their cell phone number to the valet instead of receiving a paper ticket, and the valet enters the make, type and color of the car while a license plate reader scans the car's plate as an additional measure for tracking the vehicle.
  • Guests then enter their destination as the valet enters the car using a disposable sanitizing cloth to wipe down the interior handle, steering wheel and gear shift. The valet parks the car and wipes down the keys, sanitizes hands and throws the wipe in the trash. All sanitizing wipes used are non-scented, non-abrasive and will not harm vehicles.
  • Once guests are ready to leave, they will open the text message confirmation received from Phoenix upon arrival and click on the link to request their car and pay the valet fee and tip.
  • Guests must show this confirmation screen, which features the ticket number in large numbers on a green screen for those who have paid or a red screen for those who have not, to the masked valet. The large text and color-coded system allows valet drivers and guests to stand a safe distance from one another during this process. Guests then close their car door and have the option to receive a receipt and parking summary via email.
  • Guests also have the opportunity to review their experience when they pay. The reviews are internal and allow Phoenix to constantly monitor and improve services based on customer feedback.

In 2019, Patterson converted his company's parking locations to Oobeo, a cloud-based valet software platform that streamlines parking operations through web, mobile, and SMS technology. This system allows for a layer of protection and anonymity between valet workers and their clients. Additionally, Phoenix Mobile Solutions uses real-time driver monitoring via Samba Safety while managers audit properties seven days a week to oversee staff and protocols.

Mobile valet solutions are nothing new. Many luxury hotels and resorts as well as shopping plazas have switched from calling a valet to texting via a third party. The cleaning techniques, as well as the care taken to ensure products are safe for every vehicle and occupant, are the big step Patterson hopes will help restore the public's confidence in valet services.

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Nuts & Bolts

 
 

The Dodge Charger and Durango Pursuit have been upgraded for the 2021 model year.

Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

There freshened 2021 Dodge Durango Pursuit and 2021 Dodge Charger Pursuit have been unveiled. The police pursuit vehicles (PPV) are equipped with new transmissions and offer new high-tech options that Dodge says are designed to "enhance officer safety, responsiveness and fuel efficiency".

The changes are the result of research Dodge did and feedback it received from the company's Police Advisory Board, a group made up of police professionals and Dodge employees from across North America. Boards like this are common and an important part of the design process; Ford also has one.

2021 Dodge Charger Durango Pursuit Vehicles Dodge has refreshed the Charger Pursuit and Durango Pursuit for 2021.Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

"Designed and built based on input from our Police Advisory Board and direct officer feedback, the 2021 Dodge Charger and Durango Pursuit deliver on our promise to offer police agencies the most advanced law-enforcement vehicle lineup in the industry whether as a sedan or a sport-utility vehicle," said Head of U.S. Sales Jeff Kommor.

2021 Dodge Charger Pursuit

2021 Dodge Charger Pursuit Vehicles

Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

Dodge has refreshed the Charger Pursuit to none exclusively offer an eight-speed automatic transmission with all powertrains options. For 2021, those options include a new V6 option with all-wheel drive as well as more horsepower and torque. It will continue to be offered with a V8 and rear-wheel drive combination.

The car has a top speed setting of 140 mph that can be adjusted to adhere to specific agency guidelines.

Electric power steering, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto are now standard.

Dodge has increased the car's Gross Vehicle Weight Rating to 5,500 pounds to accommodate additional payload.

Production of the Charger Pursuit starts in the fourth quarter at the Brampton (Ontario) Assembly Plant.

2021 Dodge Durango Pursuit

Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

Dodge is giving the 2021 Durango Pursuit an additional 20 standard features. The all-wheel drive model continues to be powered by a 3.6-liter V6 engine while a 5.7-liter HEMI V8 remains as an optional upgrade. Both engines are paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission.

The Durango Pursuit has a top speed of 130 mph. Customers can configure and limit the car's speed settings for specific agency needs.

Dodge has changed the style of the shift lever to allow for more space in the center console area. There are now black steel wheels with chrome center caps, four programmable auxiliary switches, and police-specific front seats that are designed to better fit duty belts and enable easier seat belt latch points.

"These features, such as the new IP-mounted shift lever, free up valuable space between the front seats to accommodate the police aftermarket equipment needed for the officers to accomplish their jobs," Kommor said.

2021 Dodge Durango Charger Pursuit Vehicles

Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

Dodge is offering the model with the upfit-friendly Vehicle Systems Interface Module, a heavy-duty BR9 brake package, standard vinyl flooring, and a tri-zone climate control system.

Production of the 2021 Dodge Durango Pursuit starts in the first quarter of 2021 at the Jefferson North Assembly Plant in Detroit.

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Hyundai is upgrading its award-winning subcompact SUV for 2022.

Photo courtesy of Hyundai Motor Company
Hyundai has introduced a new take on the Kona subcompact SUV and a new trim level for the 2022 model year. The revisions include the introduction of the first Hyundai Kona N Line variant.

2022 Hyundai Kona N Line

The Kona N Line takes sporty design inspiration from the company's N performance model lineup. It features a unique front and rear end, body color claddings, and diamond-cut wheel design. The SUV, which competes directly with the Kia Seltos, Chevrolet Trailblazer, and Buick Encore GX, has a new front bumper that unifies the color of the wheel arch cladding with the front end. There is no skid plate; rather an N-style aerodynamic lip with low-lying corner fins sits at the base of the face. The car's air intakes are also larger with a mesh design.

2022 Hyundai Kona N Line

Photo courtesy of Hyundai Motor Company

The model rides one 18-inch alloy wheels that do not share their design with any other model in the Kona lineup.

At the rear are a new bumper with contrasting color diffuser, one-side double muffler, and corner creases one tenth bumper the have N-style fins below.

In the SUV's cabin, the Kona N Line gets a dedicated N Line color package featuring one-tone black cloth, leather, or suede seats. The upholstery features red stitching and there are metal pedals and the N logo one the gear shift and seats.

2022 Hyundai Kona

Kona's styling is evolving to be more in line with the next-generation Sonata and Tucson, and updated Santa Fe. It front end has new cladding, a freshly stretched hood, new grille shape.The lower bumper has a skid plate while intakes dominate the corners of the face.

Designers have strived to create a less disconnected side body, which now features cleaner design. With its additions, the Kona is now 40 mm longer than before, giving it a more extended silhouette.

At the back are new taillights with a horizontal graphic. Below is a new bumper.

The revised Kona rides on updated 17- or 18-inch wheels, or the 16-inchers that have been carried over from previous model years.

Hyundai will offer the Kona in a revised exterior color palette including five new paint jobs: Surfy Blue, Dive in Jeju, Ignite Flame, Cyber Grey, and Misty Jungle. They join the existing Phantom Black, Chalk White, Dark Knight, Pulse Red and Galactic Grey colors. Every color can be combined with the Phantom Black two-tone roof.

A number of new and upgraded powertrain options, including hybrids, have been introduced. It's not immediately clear which the U.S. will get. The Kona EV's all-electric power plant is expected to remain the same.

The Korean automaker is giving the Kona a tech infusion for the new model year. The SUV gets a new 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster and available 10.25-inch infotainment touch screen. The standard infotainment screen size is up to eight inches from seven.

The car's infotainment system rests above the redesigned center console that now includes an electronic parking brake. This is part of a larger quality upgrade on the Kona's interior that also includes the addition of ambient light and aluminum finish rings around the speakers and air vents.

Hyundai has upholstered the Kona with new materials in new colors. New seat cover options include a black woven houndstooth design, cloth seats with black and grey embossing, and perforated leather seats in black, beige, or khaki. A light beige interior design scheme is also available.

Second-row heated seats and a second-row USB port are now available. Manual seat adjustment functionality has been enhanced for front-row occupants.

Hyundai has upgraded its adaptive cruise control system to include stop and go technology. New Leading Vehicle Departure Alert alerts the driver if they do not react fast enough when the vehicle ahead of them starts moving. Lane Follow Assist is also available. Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist adds pedestrian and cyclist detection. Rear cross-traffic alert is being made available to wider number of vehicles.

Rear seat alert and traffic sign reader technology are designed to make the driving experience safer. In addition, the new KONA is now available with eCall, a feature that automatically alerts emergency services if the airbags are deployed or the e-Call button is being pushed.

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