Auto dealers and other businesses set to start Hawaii’s road to recovery


Real estate services, golf courses, and mobile pet groomers are among the businesses set to reopen as Hawaii begins its road to recovery. Car dealerships are also set to open Friday.

As you can imagine, there are restrictions. Sales are by appointment only and must be limited to follow social distancing guidelines. Also, no test drives allowed with the sales agent.

Given the limitations, a spokesman for the industry says opening up car dealerships for sales is an important step in the right direction because the demand is there.

“People who are repairing their cars find that the cost of the repair exceeds the value of their car. Also, people have their leases expiring. They needed to address that situation,” said Dave Rolf, Executive Director of the Hawaii Auto Dealers Association.

Rolf says the 70 dealerships across the state will learn how to adapt. As for test drives, customers will be allowed to go on their own.

“Just like when you get a loaner car for repair and you need to have a car, you get it as a loaner, a no charge rental. They may do something like that,” he said.

Before the pandemic, Rolf says dealers were selling or leasing 150 new cars per day statewide. He doesn’t expect sales to come anywhere close to that in the weeks ahead. But re-opening will put people back to work.

Some 4,400 people are employed by the industry. Those doing repairs and maintenance have been working. But Rolf says a significant amount has been furloughed.

“The sales force was very much curtailed, so a lot of salespeople were in the furlough status. Some of them will be brought back,” he said.

Other businesses allowed to reopen are golf courses, real estate services, mobile pet grooming and car washes. The lieutenant governor says he can see more opening before the end of May.

“Other businesses range from people being in offices to having work that doesn’t require intense person to person work. Those are the least risky businesses and that’s the category that’s easiest to reopen,” said Lt. Gov. Josh Green.

He adds that quarantine restrictions for interisland travelers could also be lifted. But all these decisions are ultimately up to the governor.

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