Coronavirus impact: Bay Area car dealerships switch to online only, repair shops remain open

WALNUT CREEK, Calif. (KGO) -- Imagine buying a new car without a test drive or the ability to even kick the tires? Well that's pretty much the new reality for car dealerships and car buyers in the Bay Area.

Almost in an instant, car dealerships in the Bay Area and across the country have had to remake their business model.

At Walnut Creek Ford, the sales have gone completely online and home deliveries must conform with statewide sheltering guidelines.

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"Our showroom floor has been shut down completely," Camron Savarani, the general manager at Walnut Creek Ford.

"Customers are going online, completing everything online," Savarani said. "Getting financing, trade-in values and then we go ahead and deliver the car straight to their home. We're making sure how we sanitize the vehicle, wearing gloves and masks when delivering the vehicle. We can't sit in the car and give a full demonstration."

While the sales lots are full of cars but empty of customers, the repair side of the car business is still operating, though far from flourishing.

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"We are in a steep decline," explained Eric Ton, owner of Johnny's Auto Repair in Oakland. Car repair shops are considered essential and are allowed to stay open under California's shelter order, but some report business is off by as much as 75 percent.

Ton told ABC7 it's also hard to get parts for various cars because normal supply chains have been disrupted.

"Right now we're just trying to stay positive and stay open," he said. "Help out all the healthcare workers, like nurses and doctors because they all need a car to be fixed. Like this car right here we're working on. He's a nurse. His car broke down."

Like so many other businesses, car repair shops have had to cut back hours and layoff employees just to survive.
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