TRENTON, NJ - Gov. Phil Murphy continues to ease COVID-19 restrictions imposed on New Jersey businesses, announcing at Tuesday's press briefing that auto dealerships, motorcycle and bicycle shops can re-open their showrooms and shops for on-site sales activities beginning at 6 a.m. Wednesday.
The timing couldn't be better, as the Memorial Day weekend has traditionally been a major sales event push for auto dealers.
The New Jersey Coalition of Auto Retailers had been lobbying Murphy since he shut down activities at retail establishments throughout the state on March 17th, which affected 510 members of NJCAR statewide and a broad spectrum of other businesses categorized as non-essential.
Repair and service facilities at auto dealerships were permitted to continue operations, while sales activities were limited to the internet and phone.
Steve Kalafer chairman of Flemington Car and Truck Country couldn't be happier.
"We applaud Governor Murphy's steps to open up car dealerships, so we can serve our customers," Kalafer said.
"Flemington Car & Truck Country has been preparing for this day for some time so that we have a completely safe environment for our customers," he added. "Our service department has been open since the original executive order and able to serve our customers properly in a safe environment with the latest CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Protection) recommendations."
The Kalafer family has several showrooms on Route 202/31 selling domestic and foreign brands, as well as dealerships in Clinton and Princeton, and is one of the larger auto groups in New Jersey.
"Our standards are very high; we invite our customers to call or email for an appointment. Our inventories are large, and we can arrange for contact-less deliveries immediately," Kalafer continued. "We're exciited that our employees and associates will be able to return to work so that we can service our customers tomorrow and in the future.
"We have said to our employees and customers 'we will all get through this together,', and we are. The prices have all been reduced on all of our vehicles to reflect the business environment that we are living in so come on down."
Ellen Nardoni, executive assistant, said all safety, cleansing and distance protocols will be in effect.
"We have to be mindful of that," Nardoni said.
All showrooms will be held to 50 percent of their maximum occupancy to ensure compliance with social distancing. All employees will wear face masks, and face masks will be available for customers who come to the dealerships. Hand sanitizer will be available in abundance. Any vehicle taken on a test drive will be sanitized afterward, and each showroom will receive a thorough cleaning at the end of each day going forward, according to Nardoni.
Appointments can also be held to 10 minutes or less, according to Kalafer.
Like most car dealers in New Jersey, Kalafer's staff has been working from home, and they have been selling cars, but a return to the showrooms should bring a big uptick in sales, according to Nardoni.
"Manufacturers have good deals going on, 0 percent financing, 90-day delays on first payments, there's lots of good deals to be had, and we have plenty of cars," Nardoni said.
Further information is available online at flemington.com.
NJ CAR released the following statement:
"NJ CAR’s months-long effort to persuade Governor Murphy that dealership showrooms should be permitted to open “by appointment only” came to a successful conclusion today. The Governor announced at his daily press conference that effective 6 a.m. on Wednesday, May 20, 2020, new car and truck dealers will be permitted to conduct on-site sales activities.
"NJ CAR previously argued to Governor Murphy and his COVID-19 response team that dealership showrooms are the ultimate social distancing environment, typically providing 10,000 square foot retail spaces with ample room to ensure the safety of employees and consumers. Moreover, NJ CAR argued that dealers have already been complying with the Governor’s COVID-19-related Executive and Administrative Orders in their service departments without issue since the start of the crisis.
"The Governor’s announcement during today’s press conference simply noted that “in-person sales at auto and motorcycle dealerships and bicycle shops may resume at 6 a.m. tomorrow.” We have received indication from the Governor’s Office that all in-person sales activity at dealerships will be by appointment only, and further, we understand that the Governor’s pre-existing Executive and Administrative Orders governing retail activity will still apply. Accordingly, the pre-existing strict social distancing, cleaning, and personal protective equipment requirements will extend to all retail customer interactions for the foreseeable future."