Locked-down State Opens up Online Auto Sales, Nudging Industry in Direction of Recovery

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
locked down state opens up online auto sales nudging industry in direction of

Don’t expect the Present Year to come close to the sales tallies racked up in 2018 or the year before. No analyst foresees such a scenario; globally, LMC sees auto production taking a 20-percent haircut in 2020.

But the return to normality is underway in the U.S., aided by the federal government’s reopening plan (a set of guidelines to be acted on by individual states), but especially by the realization of governors that car buyers need some way to bring a vehicle home. Michigan, via an executive order, greenlit online sales on April 9th. Now it’s Pennsylvania’s turn.

Under Gov. Tom Wolf’s pandemic-prompted lockdown orders, no form of auto sales went forward over the past month. Dealerships did not appear on the state’s list of essential businesses (excluding the service bay), prompting many new car buyers to flee across the state line. Any direction would do.

New York, New Jersey, and Delaware all allowed online purchasing. Ohio and West Virginia saw no ban of any kind on auto purchases.

On Monday, Wolf relented. Via Senate Bill 841, Pennsylvania will allow “limited car sales and leasing operations through online sales,” though in-person sales and leasing will remain off the table. The hangup was that Pennsylvania law required in-person notarization of the buyer’s signature.

It’s a positive step for the hurting auto industry, as Philadelphia and Pittsburgh rank No. 5 and No. 20 on the list of largest U.S. new vehicle markets.

“Some of them involved in collisions, they really didn’t have the ability to wait a month or six weeks to get a car and it was really creating hardship for many,” one dealer told Pittsburgh Action News 4.

As we told you last week, the decline in U.S. auto sales has stabilized, with the cratering caused by coronavirus lockdown orders not proving as extreme as analysts at J.D. Power expected. Some markets proved resilient, among them Dallas, Phoenix, and Minneapolis, while other large (and hard-hit) areas, like New York City and Detroit, saw their sales fall to zero.

[Image: Jeff Bukowski/Shutterstock]

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2 of 7 comments
  • ToolGuy ToolGuy on Apr 21, 2020

    "Resilient" is the new byword. (Closely followed by "flexible".) With all the uncertainty floating around, this might not be the best time to set yourself up with a recurring regular 'reverse' annuity (aka "car payment").

  • Jeff S Jeff S on Apr 23, 2020

    This is good if know exactly what vehicle you want to buy but I would not buy any vehicle that I have not at least had a test drive of a like model. If I had test driven a particular model then I would use this method of buying but I would want to do comparison shopping between dealers and since I am a Costco member have Costco give me a price as well.

  • VoGhost #ICEcliff
  • Johnds 35,000 cars listed online in my area, and this is the best you could find?
  • Wayne GM lost me when they couldn't make a functions key switch. and then made the woman who was in charge of the debacle the company president.
  • TheEndlessEnigma I don't not like it.
  • El scotto Oh Lordy, when you rent a Tesla from Hertz it shows where there are chargers. Most of your hotels that cater to business travelers have chargers. You can also tactfully ask your client if they have chargers available.Just trying to show that charging doesn't take that much thought before the usual herper-derpers arrive and comment.