Do you think automobile dealers provide "essential" services?
As fears of the novel coronavirus's spread continue to disrupt life across the US and around the globe, US auto dealerships are asking to be exempted from state and local "shelter in place" orders aimed at closing down all non-essential workplaces.
Such an order is already in effect in six different counties around the Bay Area, and additional US cities such as New York are considering following suit. "Shelter in place" orders mandate that non-essential workers - i.e. workers outside of those involved in local law enforcement, emergency response, healthcare, and other essential services - stay at home to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
But in an open letter to US President Donald Trump, NADA President Peter Welch and Alliance for Automotive Innovation President John Bozella wrote that auto dealers should be considered essential, and thus left open despite any such shelter in place orders.
"We want to underscore the importance of ensuring that consumers have access to a safe and well-functioning motor vehicle fleet," the letter reads in part.
"Motor vehicles, both new and old, are critical to ensure that the public can get food and other necessities of life," the letter continued. "Given the importance of safe transportation in addressing the coronavirus outbreak, we have an obligation to ensure that motor vehicles remain safe and are properly maintained."
The letter notes that many local jurisdictions already count automobile dealers on their lists of "essential" businesses, and argue that similar guidance is needed nationally.
NADA - the National Automobile Dealers Association, which represents US auto dealers - and the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, which represents OEMs, may have something of a point; here in the US, much of the essential automotive maintenance and repair work is provided at the dealership, so closing down those operations could leave many Americans stranded.
"And they provide replacement vehicles when necessary," the groups wrote in their joint letter.
It's much less likely - and arguably, less important - that automobile production is treated the same way. On Wednesday, Detroit's Big Three automakers announced that they'll be pausing production in North America to deep-clean facilities and maintain distance between workers to help slow the spread of COVID-19, after a worker at Ford's Michigan Assembly Plant tested positive. That plant builds the mid-size Ford Ranger pickup.