Warren Waugh, who has eight luxury-brand stores in the Boston area, has seen showroom foot traffic decrease and business development center phones go mostly silent since the coronavirus pandemic began. He noted that rush-hour last week in typically traffic-snarled Boston had "little or no traffic."
"People are truly taking the warnings to heart and staying home," he said.
Waugh's Lyon-Waugh Auto Group stopped using foot traffic as a metric about a year ago and instead monitors the overall activity of its business center. But Waugh said its activities have been "really, really shockingly low," and that overall business is down on average about 40 percent.
J.D. Power illustrated how abrupt the business decline has been for dealers in the wake of the pandemic, which caused several state governments to close schools and some businesses while urging its residents to self-quarantine. J.D. Power predicted a 1.7 percent decline in the daily selling rate for March, and the week ending March 8 was about as expected. But then, over the next four days, sales trailed the projected pace by 8 percent. Then, on March 13 and March 14, the deficit grew to 20 percent, and by March 15, it was 36 percent below the baseline projection.
J.D. Power is forecasting March sales will drop as much as 41 percent from a year ago. The company initially predicted U.S. sales of 16.8 million this year, but its new forecast is between 14 million and 16 million.
For Jason Courter's stores in the Seattle area, which has been among the hardest-hit parts of the country, foot traffic was off by about half last week.
On the bright side, "people coming in the door are buyers," Courter said last week.
But business is down sharply at Courter's Honda of Bellevue and Honda of Kirkland stores outside Seattle. As a result, he cut executive pay, reduced personnel hours and laid off some staff — though he hoped to reinstate those employees when things pick back up.