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Maryland’s car dealers asked to move sales online or appointment-only amid coronavirus outbreak

The Maryland Automobile Dealers Association has asked its members to move the sales of vehicles online or through appointment only as the coronavirus continues to spread throughout the state.

The request of the association’s roughly 300 members was in response to the stay-at-home order Gov. Larry Hogan issued Monday, President Peter Kitzmiller said Tuesday. Kitzmiller said that while the executive order did not change dealers’ designation as essential businesses, the association has continued to evaluate how to best conduct business as the outbreak has escalated.

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He added that social distancing measures will be in place at car dealerships even for customers with appointments, saying that some people who are interested in test driving vehicles will do so without an employee in the car.

Kata Hall, a spokeswoman for Hogan, wrote on Twitter that the Maryland Automobile Dealers Association announced it will close all sales departments at car and truck dealerships across the state. Kitzmiller clarified that the association wasn’t issuing a mandate, but was offering guidance as to how to operate in compliance with the new executive orders.

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“We’re not the [Motor Vehicle Association],” he said.

Kitzmiller disagreed with the characterization of calling sales departments “closed,” saying they are simply moving away from accepting walk-in customers.

Hall added that service and parts departments could remain open, but other administrative tasks would be moved to telecommuting whenever possible.

Hogan on Monday ordered all non-essential businesses closed and for residents to stay at home unless shopping for food or other critical items in response to the growing COVID-19 outbreak, which has infected at least 1,660 people as of Tuesday morning, leading to 18 deaths in the state.

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