New Jersey car dealerships and bicycle shops can restart in-person sales on Wednesday, another baby step in the planned gradual reopening of the Garden State economy amid the coronavirus outbreak.
Gov. Phil Murphy announced the news during his Tuesday press briefing. Car dealerships were completely shuttered on March 21 when Murphy issued his stay-at-home order that closed businesses the state deemed nonessential. The following week they were allowed to partially reopen, but in-person sales were still prohibited.
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The reopening move comes at a crucial time for dealerships, which see most of their annual sales between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
Jim Appleton, president of the New Jersey Coalition of Automotive Retailers, welcomed Tuesday’s news, saying his group has spent months convincing the Murphy administration that social distancing can be easily implemented at car dealerships.
The state’s 510 franchised auto retailers saw sales drop 50% or more in March, April and May, Appleton said. Still, he added, he’s optimistic that Wednesday’s reopening will help turn things around.
“I think dealers can make back up a significant amount of the business that’s been lost over the last couple of months,” he said.
Murphy said Monday that data on new coronavirus cases and hospitalizations have led the state to loosen the restrictions that were placed on businesses in March. He said businesses would open on a rolling basis. If the state sees a “backslide” in public health, the restart will be pulled back, he said.
The National Automobile Dealers Association asked President Donald Trump on March 17 to declare car dealerships essential businesses nationwide, citing the “importance of safe transportation in address the coronavirus outbreak.”
New cars can still be registered online despite the continued Motor Vehicle Commission closure, Murphy said Tuesday.
Brandon K. Hardison – Champion Strategies