NADA, Alliance urge Trump to treat dealerships as essential businesses

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The National Automobile Dealers Association and the Alliance for Automotive Innovation are asking President Donald Trump to issue national guidance that dealerships be considered essential businesses amid forced closures of retailers in certain jurisdictions across the country as a result of the novel coronavirus outbreak.

“It is vital that vehicle repair, maintenance and sales facilities be considered essential operations when federal, state and local officials impose certain requirements due to the coronavirus outbreak,” according to a letter delivered to the president late Tuesday and signed by Peter Welch, CEO of NADA, and John Bozzella, CEO of the Alliance, which represents manufacturers and other companies.

The letter also was sent to Vice President Mike Pence, other Cabinet members, Senate and House leaders and the 50 state governors. The letter highlights the work dealerships provide on vehicles such as needed safety recall repairs and automaker warranty work.

“We hereby request that, as you consider further national initiatives to contain the severity and duration of the spread of the coronavirus, including potential executive orders, you ensure that our nation’s motor vehicle fleet remains as safe and operational as possible,” according to the letter.

Already this week, Penske Automotive Group, the nation’s second-largest new-vehicle retailer, closed sales operations at several dealerships in northern California, while CarMax, the auto retail used-car giant, completely shut five stores in the region.

The counties of San Francisco, Santa Clara, San Mateo, Marin, Contra Costa and Alameda, plus the city of Berkeley, issued a shelter-at-home order effective Tuesday until April 7, according to a memo from the California New Car Dealers Association. The order requires nonessential businesses in those counties to close.

The California dealers association said auto repair is listed as an essential business, so dealership service and parts operations should remain open. Other local governments have initiated or plan similar moves to help control the spread of the virus as cases continue to climb.

The NADA and Alliance letter specifically cites the City and County of San Francisco’s order that “gas stations and auto-supply, auto-repair and related facilities” are treated as essential businesses and don’t fall within the order.

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