By on April 20, 2020

Updated social distancing guidance released by the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) on Friday indicates the automotive industry is now an essential business.

Version 3.0 (for those keeping count) of what constitutes “essential critical infrastructure workers” added a number of job descriptions as the federal government mulls how to restart the U.S. economy. Among them is pretty much every job related to automotive manufacturing and sales.

Initially, only those providing vehicular maintenance were deemed essential. But the category has since expanded to include “workers critical to the manufacturing, distribution, sales, rental, leasing, repair, and maintenance of vehicles and other transportation equipment (including electric vehicle charging stations) and the supply chains that enable these operations to facilitate continuity of travel-related operations for essential workers.” The text has grown similarly broad for those in the shipping and taxi industries, basically giving everyone the green light to return to work if their business has anything to do with transportation.

Automotive News suggested the alterations may be in response to various trade organizations dropping overt hints as their respective sectors engage in little to no commerce amid the coronavirus pandemic:

The announcement follows intensive lobbying efforts from auto trade groups — including the National Automobile Dealers Association and American Truck Dealers, American International Automobile Dealers Association, National Independent Automobile Dealers Association and National Association of Minority Automobile Dealers, as well as the Alliance for Automotive Innovation — which sent letters to the White House asking President Donald Trump to clarify that certain sales and leasing activities at dealerships are considered essential services.

Initial guidelines from the agency released in mid-March listed vehicle manufacturing, supply manufacturing, maintenance and repair facilities as essential but made no reference to vehicle sales and leasing operations. Car rental and leasing employees were added on March 28.

Of course, there’s nothing requiring states to follow such guidelines. Homeland Security is pretty clear that local governments should always act in accordance with their own needs.

“This list is advisory in nature. It is not, nor should it be considered, a federal directive or standard. Additionally, this advisory list is not intended to be the exclusive list of critical infrastructure sectors, workers, and functions that should continue during the COVID-19 response across all jurisdictions. Individual jurisdictions should add or subtract essential workforce categories based on their own requirements and discretion,” explained CISA Director Christopher Krebs.

“The advisory list identifies workers who conduct a range of operations and services that are typically essential to continued critical infrastructure viability, including staffing operations centers, maintaining and repairing critical infrastructure, operating call centers, working construction, and performing operational functions, among others. It also includes workers who support crucial supply chains and enable functions for critical infrastructure.”

[Image: LM Photos/Shutterstock]

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22 Comments on “Auto Sales Officially Considered ‘Essential Service’ by U.S. Government...”

  • avatar

    Just like WWE is essential?

  • avatar

    It’s a little late for that. All the used car salesmen with plaid suits got let go. They’re making the old, hard-driving salesmen who had graduated to manager/closer go out and work the lot now. I hope they still have their skills, every sale is critical now, and failure means they’ll never get back to an air-conditioned office job again.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    The restrictions in PA have become more strict today – not less.

    I don’t see how in-person car sales are deemed essential.

    • 0 avatar

      Too big to fail? Are people really going to be rushing out dealers to buy cars right now given the massive layoffs? There are always a few that need new car right now and those looking out for a great deal but I assume the lot would be a ghost town sales wise.

    • 0 avatar

      My car was totaled out right as the stay at home orders started.

      “In person” sales were indeed essential for me – I was not about to purchase a vehicle I had never driven.

      Thankfully I was able to make my purchase right before things shut down.

      Frankly, the last thing I would want to see is someone be forced to rely on mass transit, taxis, or ride shares during a pandemic.

  • avatar

    Today Tennessee Governor Bill Lee said May 1st some business will open up but still using the “social distancing guidelines” so we’ll see if Smyrna Nissan and Spring Hill GM are gonna run their lines according to those orders!

  • avatar

    There are far more systemic problems impacting car dealerships right now. There is a glut of new cars on dealer lots including many 2019 models, but much of their clientele either cannot or wont purchase a new car nowadays.
    And dealers are giving pathetic trade in valuations owing to the collapse in the used car market. Most dealers are offering approximately HALF of book value on trade ins, often times even less, because there is no market whatsoever for used cars in the short term. So even if someone wants to get a new car, they will be stuck with a ridiculously low trade in value. Its going to be a while before things recover – most likely several months.

  • avatar

    I think most people at this point are just back to living their life as best as they can. I have probably driven twice the miles I normally would lately, roads are just as packed as normal, business that are still open are just as packed as they will allow. Parks are more packed than usual of course. Cabella’s is always a fun trip, of course they are just about sold out of guns but there’s still some great fishing stuff and overpriced boats to look at for ideas.

    Go out as a family and get some fast food and go out to the lake to eat. Apparently everyone else has similar ideas, I don’t blame them. I feel for those that have been forced out of work, I’m fortunate that I already worked from home most of the time, so business as usual.

    So it’s not even slightly surprising that dealerships will be open, people need cars to get around. Now is the perfect time to have any maintenance done that you don’t feel like doing yourself, dealerships have reasonable wait times and can get you in and out.

    Oddly it seems like the local dealer is now the go to place for the old folks since their normal watering spot is shut down.

    • 0 avatar

      Man, different parts of the country are reacting differently. Traffic is still down roughly 70% from normal here, most businesses remain closed, and non-food businesses that are open have very little traffic.

      My employer is not even going to consider ending the remote-only dictum until summer.

      • 0 avatar

        I don’t live close enough to the water to speak to the “Florida beaches” controversy, but when I went out April 4 things were pretty empty (even grocery store parking lots). Probably a good 80% activity decrease from a normal Spring Saturday.

        When I went out last Saturday, there was a lot more traffic (probably only down about 25% of normal) and the lines at restaurants to pick up drive-thru and takeouts were spilling into the roads basically everywhere. Everyone still seemed to be keeping their distance though and about half the people I saw out of their vehicles had a face covering.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    I am hardly driving at all unless it is once a week to the grocery store which is 5 miles away. So true about the trade in values which have been low before corona and they are still lower now. I have traded vehicles in the past but regardless of how low the mileage or that they are in perfect shape I have not gotten much because they are old. I would rather just give my old vehicle to a family member or someone that needs a vehicle. My last car I bought off a neighbor which is like new and extremely low miles at about 4k less than a dealer would sell it for and it was less hassle. In the future I might just buy low mileage used vehicles from individuals and skip the dealers.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Yeah, my hybrid is going to my son & future DIL when they get married this summer. It has little trade-in value.

      It may be replaced with an 08 Rabbit coming from a friend who is leaving the country this summer. That car has two strikes – it’s a VW (been there, done that), and I hate 5-cylinders. But it will be cheap, and it’s in good shape. It will be a college car for my last kid, and at least he’ll know how to drive a stick.

    • 0 avatar
      Tele Vision

      @ Jeff S

      I’ve bought exactly one new car in my life – and it was a waste of money. The idea that used cars are money pits is antiquated, particularly with the advent of Rockauto and Amazon. I’ve let someone else eat the depreciation on the many ( gotta count them one day ) cars and trucks I’ve owned and the three I currently own. Doing one’s own repairs is fun and saves massive amounts of money. Two recent examples:

      1 ) My wife’s 2013 Equinox threw a code for the exhaust camshaft actuator. I replaced both the intake and the exhaust actuators for $50 in parts. It took 20 minutes and two Beck’s. Dealership wanted $600;

      2 ) My 2007 CTS-V was misfiring, as it needed plugs and wires. $75 in parts and six Beck’s, as it took a while in that cramped engine bay. The owner of a local shop offered to do it for a ‘smoking deal’ of $900 – it was usually $1200, due to the tight spaces.

      Less the German beer, which I’d be drinking on a Saturday anyway, just those two repairs saved me $1375. On just the V I’ve done the signal stalk; the starter motor; the front rotors and pads; the evap solenoid; the water pump and belts; and the aforementioned plugs and wires. I shudder to think what all that would have cost me at a shop or, worse, a dealership.

      My socket set was $150 and ancillary tools ( picks/torque wrench/code reader, etc. ) were at least twice that but I’m still ahead. Way ahead.

      • 0 avatar
        Art Vandelay

        “…particularly with the advent of Rockauto and Amazon”

        Why don’t you just buy a Chinese car from the outset rather than slowly making it Chinese bit by bit every time you wrench on it.

        And that equation only works out if you really enjoy it (I do, but I prefer wrenching on newer stuff that someone hasn’t filled with Chinesium prior to my purchase), or the amount you are paid for your time is pretty low. The majority of my used car experiences are why I buy new now. YMMV.

        Maybe with the market changing the equation will favor used again, but it hasn’t for some time now with respect to used vs new prices.

        • 0 avatar
          Tele Vision

          @ Art

          You can buy one of many different parts that will fit the bill, from budget junk to OEM to aftermarket. Were you to actually work on your car you’d know this. How’s that iPhone working?

  • avatar

    Well done, auto industry. Another crack in the dike.

    I wonder if lobbyists are considered essential workers?

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    @Tele Vision–Agree. The last new car I bought was a 2013 CRV AWD for my wife and she has basically stopped driving–it has 23k miles on it after 7 years. I started to drive it more to put some miles on it. I gave my nephew my 99 S-10 extended cab with a 5 speed manual with 121k miles which I bought new and had for 20 1/2 years–still runs and looks like new–I gave it to him when I bought my neighbors loaded 2012 Buick Lacrosse with 45k miles. I got it for 11k and it had an MSRP new of about 38k. The Buick was kept in a garage when not used and was detailed once a year–I have all the maintenance records showing it was well maintained and all recalls were taken care of. The car is immaculate and runs and looks brand new. My wife and I put less than 5k miles a year on each vehicle and it is a waste to buy a new vehicle. I keep my vehicles more than 10 years.

    My nephew who has an enclosed barn with a lift is a licensed mechanic and maintains his fleet of vehicles which are a one ton 2014 Ram Cummings Diesel longhorn Dully, his wife’s 2009 Honda Accord, my old 99 S-10, and my Grandfather’s 63 IH Series 1000 step side pickup with 3 on the tree (he is restoring the IH). My nephew is retired Military and has offered me maintenance and use of his equipment for all my vehicles. He keeps all his vehicles in tip top shape.

    There are lots of videos on the internet that show you how to do maintenance on your own vehicle (i.e. Scotty Kilmer, Watch JR Go, and many others).

  • avatar

    Makes sense. It is not like we are all Amish. Could we even get a horse to ride these days – bet that is not an essential service. Oh, well, there is AOC and her gang of uglies that we could rent to ride.

  • avatar

    It’s about time this country gets moving again and we try and repair what had been the best economy in decades, if not ever. Remember all the economic damage done in your state by your Democrat governors when you go into the voting booth.

  • avatar

    Dealerships here in BC never closed. Many reduced hours or went to appointment only but you could alaways buy a new car.

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