March 25, 2020
The Honorable Ron DeSantis
Governor, State of Florida
700 North Adams Street
Tallahassee, FL 32303
Dear Governor DeSantis,
On behalf of the 800+ new car franchised automobile dealers in Florida I want to thank you for the work that you and your team are doing to guide our great State through this crisis. We want to particularly thank you for your bold stance to delay statewide closures so that we protect Florida businesses and jobs, and maintain our economic health. Members of our association have contacted you personally, but I want to provide you with some important information as our member dealers in all 67 counties react to various local ordinances involving essential business operations.
Franchised automobile dealers in Florida account for 14% of state sales tax collected, which approximates nearly $4 billion. As we all search for ways to be safe, our dealer’s sales and service operations are essential to Florida’s citizen’s needs as well as the overall economy of the State.
While you have not issued a stay-at-home order to date, we trust that you will declare that new car dealerships are essential for sales and service, as we are fulfilling important functions for Florida consumers who require safe and reliable access to transportation.
Sales departments, who are following CDC guidelines and implementing safety protocols, are necessary for:
- Doing the back-stage work to complete online sales – things like titling and registration required before a car can be delivered
- Lease turn-ins, as every day Florida leases end and sales departments handle returns – without this service individuals and companies leasing vehicles could face penalties from leasing companies
- Replacement of damaged vehicles in accidents – when vehicles are damaged or totaled the family must be able to secure a replacement vehicle
- With many businesses shutting down retail operations, new commercial vehicles will be required for home deliveries
- Purchasing a vehicle when repair facilities are not available or when the costs of repair make a new vehicle purchase more practical
- New interest-free loans from OEM’s, our dealers can help customers reduce payments and free up funds for their immediate needs
Service departments ensure that Floridians have working vehicles for:
- Getting to medical services, food facilities or grocery stores
- Traveling safely and avoiding public transportation or ride sharing conditions that may not be safe
- Helping family members who may need emergency assistance or care
- First responders who must be able to reach deployment
Broward County just issued an order last Sunday stating that new and used car dealerships are essential for Florida citizens for the reasons stated above, and may remain open.
Section 3. The following retail and commercial businesses are deemed essential and existing retail and commercial business locations of these businesses may remain open, but shall practice, and ensure persons interacting with and within such businesses practice, social distancing and all other measures as advised by the CDC:
f. Gas stations, new and used automobile dealerships, and auto-supply, auto-repair, and related facilities;
Virginia just issued an order saying dealership sales and service may remain open.
Unfortunately, as you know, many localities have produced their own orders and have concluded only that “auto supply, repair and other related facilities” are essential for citizens. This imprecise language does not specifically designate sales operations as essential.
We would respectfully request that you not only designate new car sales and service departments as “essential” for Florida, but also that you specify in any future Executive Order that your Order shall specifically preempt any existing local orders to the contrary.
Our franchised, new car dealers are operating with one goal in mind – to ensure the safety of their customers and employees, while being able to meet the needs of customers in their sales and service departments and keep the Florida economy going.
Ted L. Smith, President