He declined to disclose specific figures but said his group will end the first quarter below 2019 for both sales volume and profit. Until the virus crisis, he said, his group had been pacing ahead of 2019.
About 30 percent of employees in Colorado and 20 percent in Florida are furloughed, though the company continues to pay its share of their health care expenses, Maroone said. The group also asked vendors to reduce costs and limited its purchase of used vehicles to focus on cash generation. He said his team is modeling several financial scenarios.
"We're a well-capitalized group," Maroone said. "The wild card is just how long this disruption is going to last."
Many dealers can still make money in 2020, even if results end up close to break-even, said Mark Johnson, president of buy-sell advisory firm MD Johnson Inc. That scenario, however, is contingent on federal stimulus aid covering their losses, vehicle production resuming and people spending money again.
"I don't see this turning good, profitable stores into losses for the year, but [for] stores that are marginal, [it] will be very difficult for them to be profitable this year," Johnson said.
Tyler Reed, a managing partner of Reed Auto Group, said last week that gross revenue across his Kansas City, Mo.-area group was expected to be down 35 percent in March vs. March 2019.
The first half of March at times paced ahead of forecasts, he said, "and then it turned off like a spigot. Leads stopped coming in. Website traffic [went] down tremendously. Lot traffic, obviously, and even the service departments … have slowed to about a 25 percent [of normal] pace."
Still, Reed said he has seen encouraging signs in the service lane. In the first couple of days after stay-at-home orders were issued locally, the group dropped from writing 30 repair orders a day to between 10 and 15, he said. That number then climbed into the 20s and returned to 30 last week.
Larry Winter, president of South Hills Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram and South Hills Kia in suburban Pittsburgh, said he anticipates zero sales business in April because of a statewide order banning vehicle sales. Winter said he was not conducting sales of any kind, including online.
Service business is running at about 60 percent of normal, he said. He estimated that total gross profit for his two stores in March will drop by 75 percent, roughly $500,000, compared with a year ago.
Winter said he laid off 75 of about 100 employees — even himself and his family members. Should Pennsylvania allow online and remote sales, the stores wouldn't recover all lost sales but would be better than zero, he said.
"We're in survival mode," Winter said. "It almost changes daily. It's tough to even put a plan to whenever this ends."
Jackie Charniga contributed to this report.