In New York state, dealers were allowed to begin face-to-face sales by appointment May 6, per updated guidance from Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Test drives are also allowed, so long as vehicles are properly sanitized, and salespeople are asked not to accompany customers.
The order includes the New York City area, which is widely seen as the epicenter of the contagion's outbreak in the U.S. The Greater New York Automobile Dealers Association surveyed its members near the end of April, and respondents on average reported sales off by 81 percent since lockdown measures began, association President Mark Schienberg said.
In New Jersey, Doug Wells, general manager of Mercedes-Benz of Edison, said he expected his state to follow New York's lead to allow dealerships to reopen showrooms by appointment only.
"We figured that New Jersey was going to open it up within a day or two, [May 11] at the latest," Wells said. "That didn't happen."
Instead, New Jersey dealerships continued to sell vehicles online only at press time, with remote delivery and curbside pickup. The New Jersey Coalition of Automotive Retailers, the state's franchised dealership trade association, has lobbied Gov. Phil Murphy's administration to allow appointment-based, in-person sales.
"It doesn't make a whole lot of sense to leave 10,000-square-foot retail operations vacant when you could easily put a few people in those locations safely," association President Jim Appleton told Automotive News.
Appleton said dealerships in states where rules are more relaxed — such as Connecticut, Delaware, New York and parts of Pennsylvania — could have a competitive advantage by attracting New Jersey customers who don't want to conduct transactions online.