Officially, Masks Are Recommended at Car Dealerships, but Not Everyone Complies

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  • Due to a lack of a national mandate, states and counties are making their own decisions about whether masks are required where cars are sold.
  • Both the National Automobile Dealers Association and AutoNation have detailed, official mask policies in place.
  • But that doesn’t mean everyone you meet at a dealership will be wearing a mask. Just ask Twitter about that.

    As state governments’ mask mandates have gone in and out of implementation over the course of 2020, and masks themselves have become a political issue, car shoppers have had to navigate a patchwork of mask enforcements and culture. Some, but not all, states require masks to be worn in commercial establishments. That includes car dealerships, and the lack of a national mandate can mean that customers not having a clear right, when going in for service or to buy a car, to not come in contact with an unmasked person.

    Anecdotal evidence (just look on Twitter) points to the whole spectrum of mask wearing and open faces at dealerships across the country. Several people have posted about not buying a car from a dealership where they did not feel safe because the salesperson was not wearing a mask.

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    This week, a Hyundai dealership in Orange County, Florida, was fined $300 by the county for not violating a mandatory mask policy. Other dealerships, such as two Ford dealers in Kentucky, are offering free masks to customers. It’s a hodgepodge.

    But all of this doesn’t mean there aren’t coordinated pushes for masks to be worn on car lots. While the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) did not respond to Car and Driver’s questions about any sort of national mask policy, the organization hasn’t been ignoring the issue. In its guide “Safely Operating Your Dealership during a Pandemic,” NADA says: “All employees should wear face coverings according to the latest CDC guidance.”

    In a similar publication, “Reopening Your Dealership during a Pandemic,” NADA says its dealers can establish policies “that require customers as well as employees to wash hands and wear masks, but need to be prepared to address situations where customers do not wish to take these steps.”

    NADA hasn’t updated the COVID-19 response section of its Business Operations page since July, when it let its members know that the Environmental Protection Agency had expanded its approved list of COVID-19 disinfectant products. NADA has also made adjustments for its own members. In October, NADA announced it would change the 2021 NADA Show, originally scheduled for February 2021 in New Orleans, Louisiana, to a virtual event. Earlier in the year, the American Truck Dealers (ATD, a division of NADA) canceled its 2021 event.

    AutoNation, the largest dealership group in the U.S., posted a video in August describing how the company sanitizes vehicles, offers “virtually touch-free” service, and observes social distancing. Dealerships even have individually wrapped disposable pens for customers to use.

    AutoNation executive vice president Marc Cannon told C/D that the company started shipping masks and sanitizing supplies to its dealers in April and has since made wearing masks mandatory. AutoNation was looking to Asia for guidance and realized that masks are simply part of the equation there, which prompted them to follow the lead here.

    “We have a very action-oriented COVID task force, and they said there’s a real sense that masks are going to make a difference,” he said. “We were the first in the dealership community to jump on mandating masks. It’s been an important thing for our customers.

    Cannon said AutoNation ships masks to its stores every week because the goal is to make customers and employees feel safe. AutoNation offers three different kinds of masks: one-use disposable masks, washable ones that can be cleaned and used for about two weeks, and “event-driven” stylish ones used for promotions.

    “We will generate and use nearly three million masks this year,” Cannon said.

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