U.S. Auto Dealerships Ask Trump If They Can Stay Open Amid Outbreak

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
u s auto dealerships ask trump if they can stay open amid outbreak

Like every other business in the United States, auto dealers are attempting to implement changes that would allow them to operate safely amid the coronavirus outbreak. Undoubtedly petrified by the massive hit the Chinese car market took after COVID-19 reared its ugly head in Wuhan, they also hope to remain open while other business stay closed.

On Tuesday, the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) and Alliance for Automotive Innovation (AAI) issued a formal letter requesting that President Trump consider dealerships and service centers as “essential operations when federal, state, and local officials impose certain requirements due to the coronavirus outbreak.” While we’ve already seen dealerships embrace new tactics to comply with public health initiatives, it’s assumed they’ll be shutting down just, like most automakers plan to. However, retailers worry their diminutive cash reserves (in relation to manufacturers) won’t see them through a prolonged shutdown while the broader industry wonders who will repair automobiles during the pandemic.

From NADA:

These facilities perform needed safety recall repairs, manufacturer warranty work, and safety-critical maintenance, including brake repair, steering repair, and much more. And they provide replacement vehicles when necessary. We note that many local jurisdictions, when issuing closure orders for non-essential businesses, have included motor vehicle facilities on the list of those that are essential. For example, yesterday’s shelter-in-place order issued by the Health Officer of the City and County of San Francisco determined that “gas stations and auto-supply, auto-repair, and related facilities” were essential businesses outside the order’s reach.

Don’t get the idea that this is all about altruism. Plenty of dealerships are understandably preoccupied with survival; if they can help keep the United States driving, all the better. Trump has said he’ll assist the automotive sector, but it’s not clear what form that aid will take or which groups will take priority. Parts suppliers, automakers and dealerships are all asking for help — but so is every other business sector impacted by the coronavirus.

“We’re watching the auto industry very much,” Trump said on Thursday. “We’re going to be helping them out at least a little bit and they’ve sort of requested some help, and it wasn’t their fault what happened. So we’ll be taking care of the auto industry.”

Optimistic estimates see coronavirus-related shutdowns suppressing automotive sales by about 3-to-4 percent vs last year’s figures. That figure presumes the shutdowns are brief and the automotive sector enters recovery by the end of April. A prolonged shutdown would be much worse. Market analysts at ALG recently suggested that an extended national shutdown could have 2020 sales sinking almost 15 percent (vs 2019) — a shortfall of 2.4 million vehicles from the firm’s initial 2020 forecast.

Earlier in the month, LMC Automotive cut its 2020 global light-duty vehicle sales forecast by 4 percent, or 3.7 million units, as the “rippling impact of the COVID-19 outbreak creates significant uncertainty.” At the time, it was one of the worst estimates given, taking into account supply chain issues from China that hadn’t yet come into full effect. Days later, Morgan Stanley added its own research, predicting a 9-percent sales decline.

[Image: Gretchen Gunda Enger/Shutterstock]

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  • Namesakeone Namesakeone on Mar 23, 2020

    Just what we need: An atmosphere where close physical contact (sitting close together in a car for a test drive, sitting across a small desk, shaking hands) is considered an element (though in the latter case, not a necessary) part of the job.

  • Thelaine Thelaine on Mar 23, 2020

    I have always engaged you and anyone else civilly Freedmike, if given the same courtesy, and I continue to believe that the reason people are willing to burn down the economy in order to try to stop a virus which is less deadly than the average flu is because they are panicking and hysterical. Turn off the TV. Read this: https://www.statnews.com/2020/03/17/a-fiasco-in-the-making-as-the-coronavirus-pandemic-takes-hold-we-are-making-decisions-without-reliable-data/ https://science20.org/david-zaruk/20200320/coronavirus-shows-our-reliance-precautionary-principle-has-ruined-our-ability?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=facebook https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/20/opinion/coronavirus-data.html Opening your mind to other opinions is the best way to stop the hysteria and panic.

    • See 1 previous
    • FreedMike FreedMike on Mar 23, 2020

      Hmmm...interesting stuff, but... If there is no "reliable data" on a disease, under-react to preventing it? OK...give me 100% reliable data on my expected lifespan if I smoke, eat out at McDonald's every day, and refuse to exercise. And good luck with that - it's impossible to predict reliably. Some people die in their 50s from that, but it's entirely possible that someone engages in that kind of behavior, lives to 90, and dies in a house fire, like someone's Uncle Joey did. It happens all the time. But what kind of idiot says, "well, it didn't kill Uncle Joey, so I'm gonna do it too"? And none of these articles, interesting as they are, explain how you prevent the spread of this virus - which is the reason behind all the draconian stuff you're talking about - without impacting the economy? Good luck with that one too. We have two choices: under-react or over-react. Clearly the over-under here is that under-reacting is going to cause more harm than over-reacting; if that was not the case, then we'd be under-reacting.

  • Nrd515 I bought an '88 S10 Blazer with the 4.3. We had it 4 years and put just about 48K on it with a bunch of trips to Nebraska and S. Dakota to see relatives. It had a couple of minor issues when new, a piece of trim fell off the first day, and it had a seriously big oil leak soon after we got it. The amazinly tiny starter failed at about 40K, it was fixed under some sort of secret warranty and we got a new Silverado as a loaner. Other than that, and a couple of tires that blew when I ran over some junk on the road, it was a rock. I hated the dash instrumentation, and being built like a gorilla, it was about an inch and a half too narrow for my giant shoulders, but it drove fine, and was my second most trouble free vehicle ever, only beaten by my '82 K5 Blazer, which had zero issues for nearly 50K miles. We sold the S10 to a friend, who had it over 20 years and over 400,000 miles on the original short block! It had a couple of transmissions, a couple of valve jobs, a rear end rebuild at 300K, was stolen and vandalized twice, cut open like a tin can when a diabetic truck driver passed out(We were all impressed at the lack of rust inside the rear quarters at almost 10 years old, and it just went on and on. Ziebart did a good job on that Blazer. All three of his sons learned to drive in it, and it was only sent to the boneyard when the area above the windshield had rusted to the point it was like taking a shower when it rained. He now has a Jeep that he's put a ton of money into. He says he misses the S10's reliablity a lot these days, the Jeep is in the shop a lot.
  • Jeff S Most densely populated areas have emission testing and removing catalytic converters and altering pollution devices will cause your vehicle to fail emission testing which could effect renewing license plates. In less populated areas where emission testing is not done there would probably not be any legal consequences and the converter could either be removed or gutted both without having to buy specific parts for bypassing emissions. Tampering with emission systems would make it harder to resell a vehicle but if you plan on keeping the vehicle and literally running it till the wheels fall off there is not much that can be done if there is no emission testing. I did have a cat removed on a car long before mandatory emission testing and it did get better mpgs and it ran better. Also had a cat gutted on my S-10 which was close to 20 years old which increased performance and efficiency but that was in a state that did not require emission testing just that reformulated gas be sold during the Summer months. I would probably not do it again because after market converters are not that expensive on older S-10s compared to many of the newer vehicles. On newer vehicles it can effect other systems that are related to the operating and the running of the vehicle. A little harder to defeat pollution devices on newer vehicles with all the systems run by microprocessors but if someone wants to do it they can. This law could be addressing the modified diesels that are made into coal rollers just as much as the gasoline powered vehicles with cats. You probably will still be able to buy equipment that would modify the performance of a vehicles as long as the emission equipment is not altered.
  • ToolGuy I wonder if Vin Diesel requires DEF.(Does he have issues with Sulfur in concentrations above 15ppm?)
  • ToolGuy Presented for discussion: https://xroads.virginia.edu/~Hyper2/thoreau/civil.html
  • Kevin Ford can do what it's always done. Offer buyouts to retirement age employees, and transfers to operating facilities to those who aren't retirement age. Plus, the transition to electric isn't going to be a finger snap one time event. It's going to occur over a few model years. What's a more interesting question is: Where will today's youth find jobs in the auto industry given the lower employment levels?