In Louisiana, Governor John Bel Edwards has issued a statewide stay-at-home order to help combat the spread of the coronavirus, but auto dealerships are allowed to stay open. The order currently ends on April 12 and requires Louisiana residents to shelter in place unless going out for essential errands, such as to the grocery store.
Louisiana has the fastest growth rate of confirmed coronavirus cases in the world and is third in the nation in coronavirus infections per capita. Rachel Maddow pointed out that New Orleans has more people infected than Los Angeles County, which has a population 26 times larger than New Orleans.
With such an unprecedented outbreak of a virus responsible for a global pandemic, why are automotive dealerships allowed to stay open, you ask? Under Governor Edwards’ guidelines, dealerships are considered essential.
Will Green, President of the Louisiana Automobile Dealers Association (LADA) told WAFB9, “We know that people need safe and reliable transportation now more than ever. In some of our dealerships, they have moved their configurations around inside the showroom to allow for proper social distancing.”
He also cited a National Automobile Dealers study that explains how 1.8 million vehicles nationwide have lease agreements that expire between now and June. Some dealers are developing online sales and at-home delivery strategies as a means of reducing the number of in-person interactions with customers.
My first initial thought was, “How are dealers considered essential along with food and groceries?” The image in my head was that of shoppers crowding into a dealership to buy cars, which to someone like me who doesn’t own a car didn’t seem as essential.
I grew up without a car and have learned to adapt to living without one. Not everyone else has, and a pandemic is not a good time to have a car emergency. Whether you need a new one or need to have it serviced, dealers and also service providers can be considered essential. It does make sense from that perspective.
Economically, it makes sense for dealers to remain open while also working to minimize in-person interactions with customers. Louisiana is one of the poorest states in the nation, and the money we do generate comes mostly from tourism. My first job was in a casino. Louisiana is known for its casino culture, Mardi Gras, and our food. Many jobs are either in tourism or energy (think gas and oil). With many of the restaurants closing, millions are going to be out of work as it is. At the end of the day, we all have to survive and eat, and if there are sectors of the economy that can safely remain open, that could be helpful.
As reported earlier this morning, Tesla is still delivering cars (in states where that is legal), using various social distancing approaches to minimize the chance of coronavirus spreading.
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