Monday, 23 March 2020 15:34

Car Dealers Petition to Stay Open

Written by Jim Henry, Wards Auto


That request was in a letter to President Donald Trump and other officials, asking the federal government to declare all dealerships “essential.”


California Gov. Gavin Newsome issued a stay-home order for the entire state. However, the governor’s order cited different categories for businesses to be considered “essential,” based on federal guidelines from the Dept. of Homeland Security.


The California New Car Dealers Assn. interprets the statewide order to mean “automotive repair and maintenance facilities” are considered critical, but not “auto sales,” since they’re not specifically listed as essential, said Jenny Dudikoff McLaughlin, an association spokeswoman.


There’s a similar debate in New Jersey.


In upscale, suburban Bergen County, County Executive James J. Tedesco III issued an order on March 16 closing all businesses except those specifically exempted.


The order said, “Auto repair shops will be permitted to remain open only if attached to and part of a gasoline station.”


In a March 18 letter, the New Jersey Coalition of Automotive Retailers asked Gov. Phil Murphy to declare dealerships “essential” operations.


Jim Appleton, president of the New Jersey dealer association, told Wards in an email, “The arguments for repair and service departments at dealerships are clear, although we believe sales are essential, too.”


He said the physical environment in most dealerships is big enough to allow businesses to comply with guidelines for separating individuals.


“Again, I acknowledge sales activities are a more difficult issue, although we know there will be a substantial need for replacement vehicles,” Appleton said, noting that lease customers will be looking to replace their vehicles at lease end.


In a Wards interview, Tyson Jominy, J.D. Power vice president for data and analytics, also cited off-lease customers as people who would need access to dealership sales operations.


Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf ordered “all businesses that are not life sustaining” to close. According to the Pennsylvania Automotive Assn., dealership service and parts operations and body shops may stay open.


Sales operations, however, are listed as “may not continue physical operations,” the dealer association said on its website.