Coronavirus puts the brakes on car sales

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BERLIN, Vt. (WCAX) Car dealerships in Vermont are open for business. But with many people out of work, are sales stuck in neutral? Our Ike Bendavid talked with dealerships and customers.

For some, buying a new car can be a stressful experience, but for others...

"Very excited for a new car," said Jazmane Franks of East Montpelier.

Franks and her grandpa LLoyd Franks stopped at 802 Toyota in Berlin to shop for a new car. But the experience is a little different than normal.

"Be better if we could be inside but that's not the way it works anymore," Lloyd Franks said.

Coronavirus has closed showrooms and limited interactions with customers.

"If this was 10 years ago, it would be a whole different story; 90% of the people start the process online," said Steve Kelson of the 802 Cars Group.

Kelson says sales at their three locations are not as bad due to the pandemic as they expected. He says they are around 10%-30% lower then what they normally would be.

"Business is off a little bit," he said, "but we are selling cars."

But not every dealership has avoided speed bumps.

"Sales are-- would be off a lot," said John Dubrul of the Automaster in Shelburne.

Dubrul says sales are down 80% during what is normally one of the busiest months of the year.

"No comparison cause we have never shut down before," he said.

That impact can be seen statewide. Preliminary numbers from the DMV for March show 6,263 new registrations. That's about a third less than last March when there were 10,044 newly registered vehicles.

So as customers learn a new way to shop...

"This is my first experience, of course, like a lot of other people," Lloyd Franks said.

...Dealerships wait for things to get back to normal.

"As things come along, changes come along, we will figure things out," Dubrul said.

"Feeling optimistic that once people get back to work we will be back in business," Kelson said.