Md., Va. car dealerships are open but working to protect customers from COVID-19

Car dealers in the D.C. region are considered essential businesses during the ongoing novel coronavirus crisis and are open for sales and service, but it’s not a good idea to show up at one without calling ahead.

The Maryland Automotive Dealers Association (MADA) is asking member dealers to conduct sales online or by appointment only if meeting customers in person.

Dealers in Virginia are receiving similar guidance.

MADA president Peter Kitzmiller told WTOP most of its dealers are equipped for online sales and can bring cars to homes for contact-free test drives. He said many dealers are also offering pickup and delivery if cars need to be serviced or repaired.

Under current rules in place across the region, showrooms may only allow 10 people at a time inside, and police have been checking in on dealerships in Maryland and Virginia to ensure that’s happening.

MADA is urging dealers to maintain “extreme” sanitation and social distancing standards at all times.

Dealerships such as Fitzgerald Auto Malls and Sheehy said they are cleaning and sanitizing surfaces such as doors and countertops multiple times each day.

Despite such efforts, many dealers said sales are way down.

“Our latest dealer survey, conducted this week, shows that every one of your businesses has been impacted by the coronavirus outbreak — with nearly 75% reporting the impact as “extreme,” VADA President Donald Hall wrote in a Wednesday message to members.

“Sales appear off by approximately 50%, while service is down by nearly 40%. Already, about 45% of dealerships have had to furlough employees, with most expecting additional layoffs.”

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Michelle Basch

Michelle Basch is a reporter turned morning anchor at WTOP News.

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