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Can I buy a car? What to know about the massive auto dealer outage

A worker walks through the lot of Paragon Honda and Acura car dealership in the Queens borough of New York in July 2021. Car dealerships across the United States and Canada are being impacted due to cyber incidents at CDK Global. (Photo by Bess Adler/Bloomberg/Getty Images/File via CNN Newsource)

New York (CNN) — CDK Global is ubiquitous in the auto dealership world – its software is used at 15,000 dealers. Its products handle everything from records to scheduling.

Now, thousands of dealerships across the United States and Canada are entering a third day in a near deadlock after two consecutive cyber incidents at CDK Global led to a shut down of its systems.

There’s never an opportune time for a systems outage, but it’s now the official start of summer, a time when many Americans are shopping for a new car and dealerships enjoy a bump in sales. Here’s what the CDK Global outage means for both car sellers and shoppers.

What exactly happened?

On Wednesday, CDK spokesperson Lisa Finney told CNN that the company was investigating a cyber incident.

“Out of an abundance of caution and concern for our customers, we have shut down most of our systems and are working diligently to get everything up and running as quickly as possible,” Finney said in the statement.

Later Wednesday, the company said most of its critical computer systems were back online. But Thursday morning, the company told dealerships another incident had happened.

Are systems still shut down?

CDK said it proactively shut down most of its systems after it experienced an additional cyber incident late in the evening on Wednesday, June 19.

“In partnership with third party experts, we are assessing the impact and providing regular updates to our customers. We remain vigilant in our efforts to reinstate our services and get our dealers back to business as usual as quickly as possible,” the company said in a statement Thursday.

On Thursday afternoon, the company said it still had no new information.

The company told dealers the systems could be down for several days, according to two sources briefed on the situation.

What does CDK Global do?

CDK Global provides data and technology to different automotive dealerships. Its systems are used by roughly 15,000 car dealerships across the United States and Canada.

CDK operates different products that car dealers use to handle things like keeping records of negotiated deals to scheduling and communicating about service. Not every dealer uses CDK’s products, and even those that do may not use them for everything, but the system shutdown has been a problem for many.

To protect customer privacy, customers’ details aren’t written out on a piece of paper that’s just sitting on a desk anymore. Instead, information about deals and customer appointments is kept in a server that’s now impossible for salespeople affected by the outage to access.

Why is this a bad time for dealerships?

The outage can eat into sales during the first official weekend of the summer. Summer is car-buying season.

CDK said it themselves in a blog post on its site last week.

Post Memorial Day, “this presents increased opportunities for vehicle sales, service and, of course, revenue. It also means that it’s time to roll out your summer Sales and Service marketing campaigns.”

Can I still buy a car?

Jeff Ramsey, an executive with Ourisman Auto Group, which is headquartered in Maryland, told CNN the shutdown is a major hassle and could cost his dealerships some business. Customers who are delayed in closing a sale at one of his dealerships could just find a dealer nearby that’s not having these issues and buy a new vehicle there, instead.

However, some affected dealerships are still selling cars.

“My selling team can hand-write a buyer’s order,” said Brian Benstock, general manager of Paragon Honda and Paragon Acura in Long Island City, New York.

But salespeople could lack access to customer agreements that had been previously negotiated, making it harder to close those sales, dealers CNN spoke with said. There’s more than just the negotiated price of the car involved, since these agreements can involve rebates and incentives, some of which customers must show they’re qualified for.

What are automakers saying?

Ramsey, whose company operates a number of dealerships, said automakers including Kia, Toyota and Stellantis, which makes Jeep and Dodge vehicles, have been very helpful with finding ways to serve customers even with all technology issues.

Ford also said its dealerships involved in the CDK outage have alternate ways to take care of customers.

“Although there is an industry-wide system outage for some dealers who use CDK, Ford and Lincoln customers are able to receive sales and service support due to alternative processes available to our dealers. While a customer’s local dealer remains the best place for information about their sales and service needs, they can always contact the Ford Customer Relationship Center at 1-800-392-3673,” Ford said in a statement shared with CNN.