Pennsylvania dealerships will be allowed to sell vehicles online, Gov. Tom Wolf said Monday, a move that loosens a sales ban that had been in place for a month to slow COVID-19 transmission.
Wolf on Monday signed state Senate Bill 841, allowing remote online notarizations. A notary public is necessary to close a vehicle purchase in Pennsylvania. In-person sales or lease transactions are still prohibited, though parts and service operations can continue.
"Over the past six weeks, Pennsylvanians have come together like never before to halt the spread of COVID-19," Wolf said in a news release. "It has not been easy, but it has paid off. Today, we are taking small steps toward a degree of normalcy."
Normalcy, however, will not resemble business as usual before the coronavirus outbreak reached the U.S., Wolf's office said. Restrictions will be reinstated if the state experiences increased COVID-19 caseloads.
Pennsylvania is among the top ten U.S. states for new-vehicle sales, with 2019 new car and light-truck registrations of 656,647, according to IHS Markit.
Wolf signed an initial order March 19 closing non-life-sustaining businesses, prohibiting dealerships from selling vehicles in person. The Pennsylvania Automotive Association, a trade group that represents franchised dealerships, had sought guidance about digital sales from Wolf's office.
The group said on its website that it "would like to thank the many dealers and their employees who contacted their elected officials over the past month to assist in convincing the Governor to allow motor vehicle sales to occur."
Association President John Devlin told Automotive News via email that dealerships will need to follow the guidelines to keep customers and employees safe.
"Very glad we finally got here," Devlin wrote.
Under guidance from the state, dealerships should steer customers to shop on their websites. Any discussions about and approvals of a transaction must be done electronically, along with financing. A customer will not be allowed to view a vehicle in person. Any purchase and trade documents must be sent to the customer by mail or electronic means, and they can be notarized either remotely or by notaries that can maintain in-person operations, such as those working in banks, Wolf's administration wrote.
The changes "will allow certain licensed dealers the latitude to conduct virtual vehicle sales that comport with Pennsylvania's COVID-19 mitigation efforts," according to the state.
Dealerships will be allowed to complete the sale on an appointment basis, with one customer at a time and "limited to the least number of people required to complete the transaction," according to state guidance. Deliveries at the dealership generally should be completed outdoors or in a service lane, and dealerships also can deliver vehicles to customers' homes.
Pennsylvania follows other states, including Michigan, where Gov. Gretchen Whitmer allowed online sales and vehicle deliveries this month in a revised stay-at-home order through April 30.