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Car dealerships feeling strain of COVID-19 receive some relief with new executive order

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Many industries have felt the effects of COVID-19. Tourism, hospitality and even the automotive industry.

According to JD Power, the U.S. automotive industry reported a decline in sales of more than 17% in the first eight months of 2020. Some of those businesses being impacted are right here in the state.

“We’re a small car lot, so I would say we average about 10 to 12 cars a months,” said Jason Thomas.

Thomas is a car salesman at Ron Lowman Motors in Minot. He says initially they didn’t see a rapid decline in car sales but now they are feeling the pinch.

“The last two months we have sold a total of five cars,” added Thomas.

Under state law, dealerships are required to sell a minimum of eight cars to hold an auto dealership license, but a new executive order has suspended those requirements. Now the North Dakota Department of Transportation can renew auto dealership licenses for 2021 regardless of the number of sales. Thomas says without the order, things could be a lot different.

“We might not be here still,” he added.

Another dealership in town says they are seeing a change in sales as well. But not the way you may expect.

“Overnight our traffic changed from people walking in the front door through the bulk of our opportunities coming on the digital side,” said Jason Leiss.

Leiss, the general sales manager at Minot Automotive, says in 2019 they were selling on average 200 cars a month — and they are set to exceed that total for 2020.

“After the dip in March and April and then some of the new car manufacturers having some constraints and getting new car inventory, we just shifted to used cars and had some record used car months,” he added.

The winter months are normally slow for car sales. But both dealerships say they hope with another round of stimulus checks and federal income tax refunds, that people decide to use their money to ride into the New Year.

The executive order will expire Thursday, removing the requirements for next year.

Dealers will have to renew their license at the end of 2021 unless another order is signed. The fee for those licenses is $100 and is not waived.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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