More states issue stay-at-home orders, creating added confusion for dealers

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Dealerships across more states and municipalities face uncertainty over whether they can continue to physically keep open sales and service departments as more governors and local leaders issue stay-at-home orders across the U.S. to try to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

With more directives coming over the weekend, states that have issued stay-at-home or closures of nonessential business orders include California, New York, New Jersey, Ohio, Connecticut, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Kentucky and Louisiana, with more expected to be announced Monday such as Michigan.

In many cases, the orders have deemed auto service and repair as an essential business and dealerships are able to maintain service operations. But not all executive orders are the same, and uncertainty has led some dealerships to shut entire dealerships in some areas of the country.

On Sunday, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine issued a stay-at-home order for all Ohioians. It goes into effect at 11:59 p.m. Monday and runs through April 6. Ohio’s order lists “automobile supplies [including dealers, parts, supplies, repair and maintenance] among essential businesses that can remain open.”

The Ohio Automobile Dealers Association said on its website that it “believes that this order permits dealers to be open for sales and service functions. However, if dealers have any questions regarding the scope of what services they may continue to offer, please contact your legal counsel for additional guidance.”

Ohio is home to about 825 new-vehicle franchised dealers.

Connecticut’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order by Gov. Ned Lamont takes effect at 8 p.m. ET on Monday and requires nonessential businesses to close. It lists “auto supply, repair, towing, and service, including roadside assistance,” among essential services that can remain open.

The Connecticut Automotive Retailers Association, which represents about 270 new-vehicle dealerships, said in a website post on Friday that the governor’s order makes clear that dealership service and repair departments are essential businesses. “But CARA awaits the official executive order for the details on your sales department,” the association said.

Officials from the Connecticut association could not immediately be reached for comment on Monday.

Also Sunday, used-car retail giant CarMax Inc. said it had increased its store closures to 44 — 27 locations in California, two in Florida, one in Georgia, four in Nevada, two in New Jersey, three in New York and five in Pennsylvania.

Some stores, such as the ones in California and New Jersey, are closed “until further notice,” while other have projected dates for reopening, the company said in a release. Stores in Florida and Pennsylvania are to be closed through March 27, while stores in Nevada are to be shuttered through April 17, and locations in New York are to be closed through April 19. The lone closure in Athens, Ga., is through April 7.

At locations that remain open, CarMax said it continues to take precautions amid the new coronavirus pandemic, such as a going “handshake-free” with customers, telling associates to stay home if they feel sick and performing more aggressive cleaning of high-traffic areas in stores.

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