The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which last month released an enforcement plan in the wake of COVID-19, is now deploying its plan at auto dealerships.

Adam Crowell, president and general counsel of ComplyNet, said OSHA’s plan – called “Interim Enforcement Response Plan for Coronavirus Disease of 2019” – was ultimately formulated in response to workers’ concerns over several issues.

Those included the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE), lack of training over appropriate standards and COVID-19 illnesses in the workplace.

Crowell, during a webinar this month, said the above complaints seem to be the most common.

“OSHA is classifying businesses based on risk levels,” Crowell said, “whether it is a very high exposure risk job, a medium exposure risk job or a lower exposure risk job.”

The highest risk jobs include things like health workers or emergency response workers, Crowell said.

On the dealership side, it will depend on the job classification or type of work each employee does, Crowell said.

An office worker might be able to operate with proper social distancing protocols with no problem.

“However, your service department, your sales department, your porters or technicians getting into vehicles may fall into the classification of medium exposure risk jobs,” Crowell said.

An OSHA inspector will make a determination based on whether there is an imminent danger based on a complaint or based on the type of business.

“OSHA is saying this may warrant an onsite inspection,” Crowell said.

If a dealership has a cluster of coronavirus infections and it appears they haven’t done anything about it, then it might warrant an onsite inspection.

OSHA will also look at other types of complaints that aren’t an “imminent danger” situation and those may not result in an onsite inspection, Crowell said.

“I will warn you right now, OSHA has been going onsite to dealerships and saying, ‘Hey, we’re just coming to observe social distancing,” Crowell said. “There’s not a complaint, they’re just randomly coming in.”

In situations where OSHA doesn’t come in, the administration may hear of a complaint and reach out to the dealer. The agency may ask the dealer to do an internal investigation, then get back to OSHA with the results, along with documentation that supports the results.

Crowell said this request may be by FAX or email, but it will be classified as what’s called a “rapid response investigation.” This requires a response within five business days.

Dealers may be able to ask for additional time, but if they can respond in five days, they should.

“It’s not automatic that you will get the additional time,” Crowell said. “It’s within the discretion of the (OSHA area) director.”

If an agreement cannot be reached, OSHA has said it will conduct an onsite investigation, he said.

Dealers have to provide documentation of any type of corrective action they have taken, Crowell said.

“They are going to want to see that you’ve done what you said you were doing,” he said.

Crowell said OSHA will also request – at the end of the process – that the business post the letter it received from OSHA and post the response.

Plus, the business owner will be asked to sign a certificate stating they have posted those items and send it back to OSHA.

Crowell said OHSA wants to be assured that it’s been posted or provided to the business’s employees so they are aware of it, too.

If OSHA determines the business did not do what it was expected to do, it could trigger an onsite inspection.

Dealers should also get guidance from an attorney or compliance professional.

During an onside inspection, OSHA reps will ask for “all sorts of information,” Crowell said. “They might be asking for your policies, procedures and training records and your OSHA logs, that sort of thing.”

For serious violations, OSHA can levy fines of up to $13,500 per violation, Crowell said. Businesses have 15 days to contest the order. Repeat violations can result in a fine of $130,000+, even if the previous violation was a decade ago.

He added that the CDC recommends a written pandemic response plan and OSHA may ask for that. It may review your supplies for PPE and/or do a walkaround.

“You have a duty as an employer to provide a workplace that is free from situations you know about that could serious physical harm or death,” Crowell said.

Businesses have to provide a place to wash hands or provide an alcohol-based sanitizer (at least 60-percent alcohol) and use EPA-approved chemicals. The EPA provides a list at its website.

Dealers are also using Plexiglass and stickers/marks on the floor for social distancing, Crowell said.

Protective Asset Protection, a provider of F&I programs, services and dealer owned warranty company programs, has made available its library of professional development training courses to all dealership personnel and agents. This curriculum can be used to help industry professionals sharpen their skills during the COVID-19 pandemic and containment efforts.

The Protective Asset Protection Training Institute’s online training solutions provide the professional skills necessary for dealer and F&I professionals to be successful in today’s industry. Each course is designed to maximize content retention with engaging videos, study guides and quizzes. Users may participate in the online courses at their own pace, anytime and anywhere.

The firm stated, according to a recent report from McKinsey & Company, that companies will leverage training to survive and thrive in a post-COVID-19 world.

Auto dealers will need to leverage new resources in order to provide the right F&I product experience in a quickly evolving retail environment where digital and contactless transactions continue even throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cars.com revealed its latest research that suggests that of those who are currently in the market to buy a car this year, 33 percent will do so this weekend. A desire for something newer (53 percent), the fact that current deals are just too good to pass up (35 percent), and needing a replacement vehicle due to an accident or their car breaking down (21 percent) are the main motivators for shoppers.

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect purchase timelines, with 85 percent of consumers saying that the virus has changed when they will buy. Most (62 percent) plan to act sooner than originally planned. Previous Cars.com research indicated that a new generation of Americans are buying a car to avoid riding public transportation (43 percent) and distrust in the cleanliness of others’ cars, such as with ride sharing services (28 percent), amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cars.com’s research also found virus concerns, along with deep discounts on cars, are motivating 33 percent of in-market Americans to buy a car this holiday weekend — sooner than originally planned.

Santander Consumer USA Holdings Inc. issued a statement regarding its voluntary settlement with 33 states and the District of Columbia, which alleged that auto loans that SC funded through certain automobile dealers dating back to 2010 violated consumer protection laws because of the high risk that certain borrowers would default.

The statement read: “SC’s voluntary agreement with the attorneys general resolves a legacy underwriting issue stemming from an investigation that commenced in 2014 and is another key milestone in addressing issues related to that time period. We are pleased to put this matter behind us. Santander Consumer is fully reserved for this matter, and no additional charges will be taken in connection with the settlement. SC has fully cooperated with the attorneys general throughout the investigation, and the settlement has no material impact on SC’s or Santander US’ operations or our ability to serve customers.

“SC is a responsible lender in a highly regulated environment. SC operates under large financial institution standards, which include rigorous risk, compliance and controls around lending and loan servicing. Over the last several years, we have strengthened our risk management across the board – improving our policies and procedures to identify and prevent dealer misconduct and tightening standards to ensure affordability. All of this important work helps SC remain competitive and well-positioned for future growth.”

AutoNation, Inc. announced the pricing of $500 million aggregate principal amount of senior unsecured notes due 2030 at 4.750 percent. The notes will be issued at 99.479 percent of the aggregate principal amount, representing a yield to maturity of 4.816 percent. The offering is expected to close on May 22, 2020, subject to customary closing conditions.

The company intends to use the net proceeds from the offering of the notes for general corporate purposes, which may include, in the short term, reducing borrowings under its commercial paper program and/or its revolving credit facility and, in the longer term, repaying its 3.350 percent senior unsecured notes due 2021.

B of A Securities, Inc., J.P. Morgan Securities LLC, SunTrust Robinson Humphrey, Inc., Wells Fargo Securities, LLC, Mizuho Securities USA LLC, and U.S. Bancorp Investments, Inc. are acting as joint book-running managers of the debt offering.

The offering is being made solely by means of a prospectus supplement and accompanying prospectus, which has been filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

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