Share prices for the six public dealership groups, plus CarMax and Carvana, all dropped by double-digit percentages last week amid the overall stock market plunge.
Marc Cannon, chief marketing officer for AutoNation Inc., the largest new-vehicle retailer in the U.S., said in an email that customers continue to shop in the retailer's stores across the country. Its Jaguar Larchmont/New Rochelle dealership in New Rochelle, N.Y., was operating as normal, he said.
Penske Automotive Group in a February regulatory filing warned that a coronavirus-related supply disruption of vehicles or parts to the U.S. or Europe could adversely affect business. Penske said last week it is monitoring the situation daily and has established coronavirus task forces.
Penske, the nation's second-largest new-vehicle retailer, also is "developing certain contingency planning scenarios" and has implemented "reasonable business travel restrictions," Penske executive Anthony Pordon said in an email.
CarMax said in an email Thursday that it will support employees with up to two weeks of pay in the event locations are closed or associates are quarantined but not diagnosed with the virus. Like other retailers, it has put in place measures to reduce the risk of virus exposure, ceased employee business air and train travel until further notice and canceled all conference attendance through April.
Sonic Automotive Inc. also implemented travel restrictions and is requiring employees who travel on cruises or to a country with a Level 3 travel health notice to self-quarantine for 14 days upon returning, Sonic President Jeff Dyke said. He said Sonic has required a few employees who visited Italy or were on cruises to self-quarantine for 14 days.
Sonic has seen a "little bit" of service cancellations, Dyke said Friday. Sales Wednesday were a bit slower but rebounded with a good Thursday, he said.
Ricart stressed dealers' resilience. "We've been through oil embargoes, wars, financial global meltdowns," he said. "And the meltdown was just 10 years ago, so all of those things are in the back of our head. We survived. Actually, we thrived right after that immediately. So we understand."
Jackie Charniga contributed to this report.