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Gov. Newsom: Please declare Auto Dealerships as Essential Businesses during the lockdown

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Over the past few weeks, DealerXT ( has reached out to Governor Newsom's Office on numerous occasions. DealerXT is now again respectfully asking California Governor Gavin Newsom to expressly add Auto Dealerships to the list of California Essential Businesses during the Shelter-In-Place orders. It is very important that you share this petition with all of your networks and colleagues in order to show a strong response!

Automobile dealers are currently experiencing confusion about whether they can remain open as an "essential business" as it relates to automobile sales. As an example, the Counties of Sacramento and Merced have specifically listed automobile dealer sales as "Essential Businesses" while other counties have not. Some counties have now amended their orders to allow cars sales with certain restrictions. Executive Order N-33-20 from March 19, 2020 as well as the corresponding Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers PDF dated March 22, 2020 posted on lists auto repair and supply facilities, which some auto dealers do have, but does not specifically list automobile sales. As the Governor has repeatedly indicated, the State of California is open to hearing arguments, evidence, and concerns related to the order.

Auto Dealer Sales is a Highly Essential Business

On behalf of California dealerships, we would like to emphasize that automobile dealers have a highly important function in our communities during the duration of the Shelter In-Place/Stay at Home orders. Vehicles are the primary, and many times only, transportation source for most Californians including the millions of service providers that have been determined to be essential service providers.

The purchase of an automobile is not an entertainment event. For many, the purchase of an automobile, which costs thousands of dollars, is a necessity. Certainly, in this economic environment, anyone who wishes to purchase a vehicle is doing so because they need to and because they have no other viable alternative.

Examples of Consumers Needing to Purchase Vehicles

Our member dealers have reached out to us with information about how they have been serving the public as an essential business in combating the COVID-19 pandemic.

We were informed that a nurse in the Central Valley needed to purchase a car because her vehicle had broken down and she could not get to work unless she purchased a replacement vehicle. Quite often, parts for vehicles that have broken down are not immediately available and therefore, nurses, hospital workers, and other essential service providers may be left without an automobile for days and possibly weeks. These essential service providers will need to potentially purchase a vehicle in order to perform their services. Additionally, certain repairs may be too expensive in relation to the value of the vehicle, and therefore not worth repairing. In this situation, the essential service providers will be left with the unenviable position to make expensive repairs to a vehicle that may not be financially in their best interests.

One of our member dealers in San Jose informed us about a customer who works for a government-contracted medical supply company. She needed a vehicle as she was currently in a rental car and was paying excessive amounts of money for the rental. Her down payment would have been exhausted on the rental company within the next two weeks, leaving her without a down payment and ultimately without a vehicle for transportation in the future.

Another member dealer North of Sacramento told us that they had to deliver a vehicle to a client who was desperate and stuck at home with a blown engine, yet needed to be on the road and to work as an employee of the Blue Shield Health system, providing vital services during this time.

A member dealership in Long Beach informed us that a number of nurses and In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) providers have contacted their dealership in desperate need of purchasing a vehicle for emergency transportation.

The circumstances where members of the public who might need to purchase a vehicle instead of repairing an old one are too numerous to list. Suffice it to say that members of the public should not be inadvertently forced to drive unsafe vehicles on the roadways and highways of California.

Auto Dealers are Following Social Distancing Directives

Unlike restaurants or casinos, car dealerships typically have less than 5 customers and staff at their dealerships at any given time, and therefore can easily abide by the social distancing directives. The majority of California auto dealers rarely have multiple customers congregating in small areas. Therefore, adapting to the CDC social distancing guidelines by providing physical spacing, setting appointments and changing policies to protect consumers and staff can be easily accomplished.

Over the past few weeks, simple solutions have successfully been applied by many essential businesses across the state to provide a safe environment. Why not allow car dealerships to do the same? Car dealerships are one of the most readily adaptable businesses to conform to CDC suggested guidelines. Many of our member dealers offer sanitizers, gloves, and plastic seat covers for any customers that come into their offices. Their efforts have gone beyond mere sales and toward helping the community during this uncertain time.

Accordingly, similar to the original directives of the Sacramento, Los Angeles, and Merced Counties, it is critical and in-line with the objectives of the State to explicitly allow auto dealership sales to continue to remain open as an Essential Business to sell vehicles for continued public safety and good.

[Picture courtesy of Krzysztof Kotkowicz, Royalty Free]

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