Car dealers ask Honolulu Mayor to allow in-person sales

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — Showrooms at car dealerships were among the non-essential businesses to close down under the latest Honolulu emergency order, car dealers say they were able to reopen safely months ago and can do it safely now.

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The Hawaii Auto Dealers Association Executive Director, Dave Rolf, said they are asking the governor and mayor to relax some restrictions and allow for in-person sales at showrooms.

“We asked that at a minimum that in-person sales be allowed, that’s something that all across the country,” Rolf said. “Is happening safely in all the 17,000 new car dealerships across the country.” 

The repair and auto-part shops remain open at the dealerships but in-person sales are not deemed essential.

On Sept. 15, Honolulu City Councilmember Heidi Tsuneyoshi called for specific metrics to be shared with business owners to allow them to reopen. She said auto dealerships should also be classified as essential.

Tsuneyoshi said, “The ability to keep car dealerships open by appointment only is essential because many do not have the means to reliable transportation.”

When non-essential businesses reopened in early May, customers had to make appointments to enter the car dealerships and they test drove the cars alone.

The New City Nissan President, John Uekawa, said they are willing to reopen under those and other restrictions.

Uekawa said, “I think appointment only is a very safe venue that we can live with, it’s a compromise between what the mayor would want as well as what the dealerships would want also.” 

For dealers like him, selling parts and repairs is helpful, but car sales make up more than half of their profit.

Uekawa said, “Hopefully it only lasts for a couple of weeks, with that set in mind, in parts and service no people were furloughed, and on the sales side we just furloughed three people.”  

He said the first round of shut downs had more of a negative impact for them, he hopes to bring those employees back once they are able to see clients in person.

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