CARY, N.C. -

In a letter to President Donald Trump last week, National Auto Auction Association chief executive officer Frank Hackett voiced his support of efforts made by franchised and independent car dealers, who are asking the president for clarification that sales and leasing at their stores is an essential service.

Hackett also emphasized the importance that auto auctions play in both the auto industry and the nation’s overall economic health.

“On behalf of the National Auto Auction Association (NAAA), I am writing in strong support of the letters written to you by the National Automobile Dealers Association and the National Independent Automobile Association requesting clarification that automobile sales and leasing at automobile dealers be deemed an essential service permissible during the pandemic,” Hackett wrote.

On Tuesday of last week, the leaders of the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA), the American Truck Dealers (ATD), the National Association of Minority Automobile Dealers (NAMAD), the American International Automobile Dealers Association (AIADA) and the Alliance for Automotive Innovation sent a letter to Trump asking for clarification that vehicle sales are essential services that need to be maintained during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Likewise, NIADA on Tuesday also delivered a letter to the White House so stores not connected with an automaker can remain open, too.

In his letter to Trump, NIADA CEO Steve Jordan requested clarification from the administration that automobile sales and leasing at independent dealerships are essential services permissible during the COVID-19 pandemic, and asked that the recent guidance document on the essential critical infrastructure workforce issued by the Department of Homeland Security and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency be amended to include vehicle sales and leasing as essential services.

Auctions play key role

After providing information on the scope of the auto auction industry in his letter, Hackett laid out the critical role auctions play in the automotive ecosystem.

“Auctions are a key economic driver and an integral player of the auto industry. They play a major role as a wholesale market for second-hand vehicles. Many
automobiles sold have gone through the auction process,” Hackett explained.

“Without the viable sale of automobiles, especially during the current pandemic when buyers in need of an automobile tend to focus on second-hand vehicles given the cost concerns, the auction process and its industry would come to a grinding halt,” he said. “As a result, many automobiles that would have been available to consumers won’t be.”

The full letter can be found here.

Auction update

As he has done the past few Mondays, Hackett held a teleconference with auction industry leaders and provided Auto Remarketing with an update.  

Most auctions at this point are running simulcast, he said. Very few are running brick-and-mortar sales.

“Most everybody is running simulcast,” Hackett said.

He didn’t have an exact number of auctions still running brick-and-mortar, but estimated at “a handful” and said it’s likely in areas that aren’t “hot spots” for the pandemic.

“That number is dwindling, but they're practicing social distancing and all the precautions. But they're really toning it down,” Hackett said.

He declined to provide specifics, but Hackett did note that furloughs started to occur in the auction industry and there seemed to be an uptick in the past week.

Sante Esposito, a lobbyist for NAAA, joined the call again and discussed legal updates and provided details on loans and stimulus packages.

Nick Zulovich contributed to this report.