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Car Sales Have Plummeted, But Dealerships Are Still Open And Trying To Sell

Bill Pugliano
Getty Images
Sale signs lie on vehicles at a General Motors Chevrolet dealership July 6, 2005 in Ferndale, Michigan.

Since the coronavirus outbreak began, sales of new cars across the country are down significantly. Auto manufacturing has been hindered by disruptions in the supply chain, and some plants have shut down.

Despite low interest rates and new safety precautions at dealerships, it may not be enough to encourage people to buy a new car, especially since consumer spending is down. Plus, with many of us working from home, we’re spending even less time in our cars.

According to J.D. Power, since the outbreak began in March, retailers have sold nearly 800,000 vehicles fewer than initially forecast. 

General Motors released its first-quarter earnings, reporting that the pandemic has cost them $1.4 billion.  

While you may be driving less, don't forget about car maintenance. Mark Savage, Lake Effect's auto contributor who also does weekly car reviews, says to drive your car at least once a week to avoid the battery dying. A quick 10-20 minute drive can keep the car from atrophying. If your battery's dead and you jump it, run your car for about 30 minutes afterward. 

"Probably best to take it out and run it around the neighborhood a little bit — get things running and moving. Because not just the battery needs to be recharged but all of your seals, all of your gaskets, they start to dry out if there’s no liquids going through them," says Savage. 

If your vehicle needs bigger repairs or you want to buy, car dealerships are open and considered an essential business. But they're doing things differently, a lot of the experience is now  over the phone. 

"Wisconsin is not doing as poorly as the nation on car sales. In April, national sales were down 49% and here it was only 42%," says Savage.

Dealerships are still offering test drives, just without the salesperson along for the ride and the cars have to be deep cleaned after every drive.

Offers like low interest and seven-year loans are being used to try and get car sales back up. Savage even mentions that some manufacturers may start offering $3,000 to $6,000 rebates.  

He says to contact your local dealership by phone or email to learn about offers and how they're operating during the coronavirus pandemic.

Audrey Nowakowski hosts and produces Lake Effect. She joined WUWM in 2014.
Mark Savage writes the auto review column, Savage On Wheels, for WUWM (formerly for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) and He is the former executive editor of American Snowmobiler magazine and FineScale Modeler magazine, both part of Kalmbach Media in Waukesha.