Dealerships in a growing number of states---including New York, New Jersey, California and Pennsylvania---are petitioning to have themselves declared “essential” businesses so they can stay open despite “stay-home” orders aimed at limiting the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
It’s a fast-changing situation, but in recent days some state and local officials are making a greater distinction between dealership service and parts operations, which are more likely to be considered “essential,” vs. the sales department, which in some states may need to be put on reduced operations or even possibly closed.
“The question of whether the state considers dealers as essential or non-essential has frustrated and confused many,” the Greater New York Automobile Dealers Assn. said in a bulletin to its members.
In a March 20 update to its members, the New York City-based association said New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced “employees involved in auto repairs, supply/parts and body shop operations are considered essential workers.”
That makes those employees exempt from a state mandate to reduce employee attendance, aimed at maintaining a safe distance between workers, the association said.
But “the governor did not identify dealerships' sales departments as essential,” the association said. That means, “those departments will have to be reduced by 75%.”
The same reasoning applies to dealership accounting and payroll employees. Those that support service and parts are “essential,” according to the association. Those that support the sales department aren’t.
The city and county of San Francisco kicked off this discussion, with a shelter-in-place order on March 16, which apparently exempted dealerships---specifically, “gas stations and auto-supply, auto-repair and related facilities.”
The National Automobile Dealers Assn. and the Alliance for Automotive Innovation cited the San Francisco order exempting dealerships as an example they would like the federal government to follow.