N.J. Dealerships to Resume In-Person Sales

First Up 05/20/20

N.J. Dealerships to Resume In-Person Sales

Automotive News reports that New Jersey auto dealerships were be allowed to resume in-person sales at 6 a.m. ET today, Gov. Phil Murphy said Tuesday. The move follows that of several other states, including neighboring New York, that initially required showrooms to be closed when the coronavirus pandemic reached the U.S. in March. Murphy said at a Tuesday news conference that he intended to sign an administrative order allowing for in-person sales to resume at stores. Jim Appleton, president of the New Jersey Coalition of Automotive Retailers, told Automotive News Tuesday that he received a copy of the administrative order. It allows showrooms to reopen for appointment-only customers, with some other conditions. "We know this is an important step for dealerships and for people who need access to transportation, and it is unquestionably another step forward on our road back," Murphy said during the Tuesday briefing. Dealerships in New Jersey have been limited to online sales and curbside deliveries since March. Read more here. 

High-Speed Crashes Rise as Drivers Go Faster Due to Lighter Traffic From Stay-at-Home Orders

With traffic down as much as 80% in some parts of the country due to coronavirus lockdowns, there has been an epidemic of speeding, often at triple-digit rates, reports The Detroit Bureau. And while preliminary figures suggest there have been far fewer fender benders and conventional accidents during the past two months, the number of extreme, high-speed crashes appears to have skyrocketed. “People (still) on the road have been getting the itch to drive faster,” said Susanna Gotsch, director of industry analysis for CCC Information Services, a firm that consults with insurance companies on auto crashes and repairs. As a result, she said, “There has been a pretty significant jump” in crashes resulting in “non-drivable” or “total loss” of vehicles. The data is not yet available to confirm that this jump specifically is the result of motorists driving much faster during the pandemic, but “It points to higher speeds before impact,” Gotsch told TheDetroitBureau.com, noting that “total loss frequency is going up.” Read more here. 

Midsize Pickups Auto Industry's New MVPs

Midsize pickup trucks are the new MVPs of the auto industry as it struggles through the coronavirus crisis, reports WardsAuto. Midsize pickups outperformed other segments, including large pickups, for the week ending May 10, according to J.D. Power. The smaller trucks were 3% ahead of pre-virus forecast. That compares with large pickups (-1%), which in previous weeks were best sellers during the tough times. Sales performance for other segments for the week ending May 10: midsize SUVs (-28%), compact SUVs (-30%) and compact cars (-44%), which were struggling pre-virus as consumer preferences shifted to trucks and utility vehicles. The top five segments (representing 60% of 2019’s retail sales) were down 25% from pre-virus forecasts for that week. But that’s an improvement of four percentage points from the week before. It marked the sixth consecutive week of improving retail sales that tanked in early March. Read more here. 

Time to Buy a Car? Industry Hopes for Coronavirus Silver Lining

For years carmakers nervously watched vehicle ownership rates slide among young people and urbanites, as better public transport and the increasing ubiquity of ride-hailing services chipped away at the appeal of having a private car. Covid-19 may have turned the tide, reports the Financial Times. Auto-industry executives are under no illusions about the economic headwinds they face. At the very least, most developed economies are facing a sharp recession; at worst, a prolonged depression as new virus outbreaks bring economies to a halt again. But the signs of a shift in consumer attitudes to cars could protect them from the worst of the economic fallout. The big question is whether the pace of the Chinese rebound can be replicated in Europe and North America. Despite precipitous sales falls in April when dealerships and factories were shut, there is some evidence of bottled-up demand among car buyers. Read more from the Financial Times here. 

VW Pays Nearly $10M to End Case Against CEO, Chairman 

Volkswagen Group has agreed to pay 9 million euros ($9.9 million) in a deal with a German court to end legal proceedings against its CEO and chairman, who were accused of holding back market-moving information on rigged emissions tests, reports Automotive News. The court in Brunswick in VW's home state of Lower Saxony was hearing charges of stock market manipulation against CEO Herbert Diess, as well as non-executive Chairman Hans Dieter Poetsch. VW in September 2015 admitted using illegal software to cheat U.S. diesel engine tests, battering its share price. Prosecutors had accused Diess and Poetsch of a delay in informing investors of the company’s wrongdoing. In a statement on Tuesday, VW said it believes the charges were unfounded but "it was in the automaker's interest that the proceedings be terminated." It said Diess and Poetsch did not violate any laws or their fiduciary duties toward VW. The company, and not the former defendants, would therefore pay the fine, it said. The fine amounts to 4.5 million euros for each executive. Read more here.  

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