Coronavirus and Cars: What If My Lease Runs Out While Dealerships Are Closed?
As jurisdictions race to slow the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, an increasing number of cities and states have ordered businesses deemed nonessential to shut down in an effort to slow the pandemic. Such edicts leave thousands of car dealers in the lurch, given federal guidance on essential businesses allowed to stay open includes repair centers but not showrooms. Some jurisdictions have issued their own directives: West Virginia, for example, names automobile dealers among the essential businesses that can remain open. At the other end are at least four states — Delaware, Kentucky, New Jersey and Pennsylvania — that say dealerships must close their showrooms. Illinois, meanwhile, says showrooms must close but dealerships can sell cars on an appointment-only basis.
Related: Can I Buy a Car Under a Coronavirus Shelter-in-Place Order or Business Closure?
Trade groups representing dealers and automakers are pressing for clarity on the federal level, but the current patchwork is of little help if you have a lease expiring in the coming weeks. Indeed, J.D. Power reports some 1.8 million lessees will need to turn their vehicles in between March and July. What if you’re in an area where showrooms are closed? What if local showrooms are open but you fear a lease return compromises social distancing?
When we reached out to automakers for their policies around the matter, we received several acknowledgements of work currently underway. Below are the brands that responded in full; we’ll update this list as others respond.
GM (Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet and GMC)
In newly posted information, GM Financial says it will grant one-month lease extensions for those unable to return their vehicles, though such extensions do not add to current vehicle mileage allowances or alter residual values. For those who need an extension, there’s “no need to contact us,” GM’s lending arm says. “If we don’t hear from you 10 days after your original termination date, we will automatically extend your lease for one month.”
Notifications will go by mail to the address on file, and GM Financial says it will work with individuals who need longer than a month. The automaker separately touts programs that allow buying a car online with at-home delivery, depending on dealer availability. For those who elect to turn in their leases, GM says there’s no need to take care of the pre-inspection; dealers can do that, too.
Hyundai’s luxury division “has existing policies that allow customers to extend their lease,” spokesman Kevin Smith told us. “This option is available to all customers, especially those impacted by COVID-19. We encourage customers with lease maturities in the next 60 days to work with their retailer” via email or phone calls to discuss options, Smith said.
“If they call to extend their lease, the extension is automatically set at six months, but the customer can shorten it to something less than six months as they see fit,” he continued.
Lessees of Nissan Motor’s two brands have a few options. For Nissans specifically, a spokesperson noted that among them are “extending a current lease on a month-to-month basis until circumstances improve, facilitating the return at another nearby dealership or even picking up the vehicle directly from the customer’s home.”
For the automaker’s luxury Infiniti brand, spokesman Kyle Bazemore said Infiniti Financial Services is working with lessees on an individual basis depending on their situation and preferences, noting that Infiniti has set up a specific customer service number and website for questions.
“Many Infiniti stores have enacted pickup and delivery services, not only for new and used vehicle deliveries, but service and parts, as well,” Bazemore added. “For lease returns, if the originating retailer is unavailable, the client can utilize another Infiniti retailer. They can also choose to work with IFS to extend their monthly lease until such time their retailer is back operating normally.”
Mercedes will work with owners “on a case-by-case basis to provide flexible solutions, including extensions and options for handling lease maturities in situations where a local dealership may be closed or the customer may not feel comfortable turning in their vehicle related to social distancing guidance,” said Melinda Mernovage, a spokeswoman for Mercedes-Benz Financial Services.
Spokesman Dominick Infante said that for areas with no operational showrooms due to COVID-19 closures, Subaru is working with lessees to extend their existing leases. For those with expiring leases who live near operational dealerships but want to preserve social distancing, Subaru “will arrange to pick up the vehicle from their homes,” Infante said.
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