John Devlin, CEO of the Pennsylvania Automotive Association, said dealers in his state are concerned about possible new shutdowns as cases surge.
But he said he was reassured during a call with state officials the week of Oct. 26 in which it was communicated that the level of previous shutdowns wasn't being considered. Pennsylvania's closures this spring were among the most stringent for auto retailers across the U.S. and had dealership sales departments shuttered for months.
"We feel a lot more comfortable now than we did six months ago that there isn't going to be anything quite like what happened," Devlin said.
State officials seem more aware of dealerships' importance in providing transportation options, he said.
"In light of the fact public transportation — subways, trains or ride- sharing — is not very popular right now, I think having independent modes of transportation is critical," Devlin said. "They know it; the state governor knows it."
Still, he added, there's always a risk a local municipality could issue an order affecting dealerships.
Generally, dealers and dealer association leaders remain optimistic that, even with rising cases, the safety protocols they've put in place — mask requirements, plastic partitions and social distancing, for example — will keep them free from new government orders.
Group 1 Automotive Inc. has not had to reclose or return to remote-only sales at its dealerships in 15 states, but the company is keeping tabs on case spread.
"We worry about that every day," said Daryl Kenningham, Group 1 president of U.S. and Brazil operations. "We want to make sure that we're prepared and proactive about that in terms of the processes in our stores, the staffing, [personal protective equipment] we provide for customers and employees."
Sonic Automotive Inc. President Jeff Dyke said last month that the retailer is more prepared in the event of new restrictions.
A reduced cost structure after pandemic-induced cuts and a rebounding economy help.
"The shutdowns, if they happen again, we're a lot more educated on how to deal with them," Dyke said.