Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic on SME Sustainability: Case Study of Car Dealerships in Switzerland

Andreas Block, Mario Gellrich, Christian Russ


Purpose: The article examines the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the sustainability of SMEs in the German-, French- and Italian-speaking parts of Switzerland.

Methodology: In a quantitative study, a sample of 259 car dealerships were analyzed. The focus was on the quality of the dealership strategy, behavior during the Lockdown, lessons learned, and assessment of sustainability. 

Findings: The results show that, generally, the car dealerships investigated meet the basic requirements for overcoming the COVID-19 crisis. A comparison of how the sustainability of the car dealerships was assessed before the outbreak of the coronavirus and after the end of the Lockdown shows that the pandemic does not generally have an influence on the assessment of sustainability. Thus 43% see their future more skeptically and 50% more optimistically.

Limitations: The low number of interviews in the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland made group comparisons by language region only partly possible.

Practical implications: Car dealerships need to develop a strategy for the future that is based on sound considerations. They should also analyze whether they have the necessary knowledge to cope with disruptive changes. For their part, national sales companies and governmental agencies have an important framework-building role.

Originality/value: This nation-wide study examines how SMEs in one of the most important industries assess their future sustainability in the light of a global crisis. In Switzerland, this is the first study on such a scale. The findings of this study can be transferred to other SMEs.

Keywords: COVID-19; SMEs; automotive industry; Switzerland

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ISSN: 2183-5594