Help! How can I clean my car if it catches the flu? And other questions related to cars and COVID-19

Help! How can I clean my car if it catches the flu? And other questions related to cars and COVID-19

Hello Loyal Beaverton readers

With the everyone focused on the corona virus outbreak, I have been asked by several readers’ questions that relate to the current times we live in. Here are a few examples:

  • Will new vehicle prices come down amidst the current situation with COVID-19?
  • How is COVID-19 affecting car sales?
  • Do you think the overall financial slowdown caused by the COVID-19 virus will lead to better pricing on new vehicles soon?

By all current indicators, the COVID-19 situation is not currently having a dramatic impact on car sales in the U.S. However, in China, where COVID-19 is hitting the hardest, the slowdown in the auto market is very real.

Even without the virus, most analysts are predicting that 2020 will not be as strong as previous years and the overall situation may result in better deals. What you want to keep in mind is that for certain cars, especially ones that are relatively popular like Subaru, there is a floor at which you aren’t going to get it any cheaper regardless of when you buy it.

Keep in mind the Virus cannot change the manufacturing costs, and the only way vehicles will be getting any cheaper or less expensive is in the event the manufacturers offer incentives, such as rebates, dealer cash, or very low factory incentivized financing.

In most of the cases the vehicles that are currently on the ground in dealership inventory were manufactured long before the COVID-19 became all the panic.

Interest rates for buyers have already come down significantly so this will certainly save us all a great amount of money.

Do I risk Corona Virus exposure if I go out and look for a vehicle?

I am a car professional and certainly NOT a medical professional so the only advice I can give is the same that comes from them: wash your hands, don’t touch your face, wear a mask, wipe down surfaces, etc.

While there remains a whole lot that we still don’t know about coronavirus COVID-19, U.S. health officials say that there will be many more cases in the U.S. as well as elsewhere in the world and the World Health Organization has declared it a global pandemic. Few industries are as interconnected around the globe as the auto industry, so you might have some health-related questions if you’re shopping for a new vehicle.

How to Use New-Car Incentives, Rebates and Finance Deals

We’ve surveyed the available information to answer some of these questions, and we will update these answers on as new or more complete information becomes available.

Are there cars sold here that are built in China and are they still available?

Almost none, and yes. The only one sold in significant volume right now is the China-built Buick Envision compact SUV. But as of this writing, there are roughly 9,000 new Envisions waiting on U.S. dealer lots and listed on websites.

Are there cars sold in the U.S. that depend on Chinese parts and are there shortages?

China is a major parts supplier worldwide. Global suppliers based elsewhere, such as Bosch and Continental, also have production in China. But after being hard-hit, China now seems to be making progress against the spread of the virus and factories are beginning to reopen even as other areas, such as Italy, now are being severely affected.

It’s too early to know which, if any, vehicles will be in short supply as automakers scramble to adjust supply chains. Plants around the world — some of which export to the U.S. — have faced at least temporary shortages, from Nissan and Honda in Japan to Fiat Chrysler Automobiles in Serbia. In South Korea, which has its own serious COVID-19 outbreak, Hyundai plants have had some temporary production disruptions.

No U.S. plants have been significantly affected, but that could change. And Automotive News reports that even a vehicle such as all-American as the Toledo, Ohio-built Jeep Wrangler uses steering gears made not just in China, but in Wuhan, the center of the original virus outbreak!

Should I avoid cars built in China or Europe with major parts from there?

Avoiding China would not be easy (see above) and you’ll have to add other countries, such as Italy, as it spreads. Then again, none pose a significant risk: an official at the Centers for Disease Control reports that the life of the virus on copper and steel is measured in hours. On other materials, it can be days, certainly much longer than it takes even most U.S. built cars to show up at dealers. The CDC also has said that contact with people rather than surfaces is a greater risk, and the U.S. has restricted travel by people from these areas, not cargo.

Can I take precautions with a new car — or any car — if I am worried about exposure?

Coronaviruses are relatively easy to render harmless with common household disinfectants, such as Lysol, that also would be easy on your car. You can find a list of COVID-19-fighting products at the market.

Do I risk coronavirus exposure from shopping for a car?

No more than in any other public place — and less than many, since a dealership is unlikely to be a close or crowded space (think a bar or subway car). At least one dealership — in Washington state, which has been a U.S. center for the virus — had an employee test positive for COVID-19, made the fact public and closed down for several days for deep cleaning and disinfecting.

When you do go shopping, you might want to ask in advance about precautions the dealer is taking and, when you arrive, avoid a handshake and maintain your personal space. Avoid any obviously ill person and follow the CDC’s recommendations (which you should be doing anyway) for good personal health habits and preventive actions for avoiding spread of respiratory illness, including hand washing and hand sanitizers before and after shopping and avoid touching your face. You also could take alcohol wipes to do your own disinfecting for any car you test. The CDC has posted a graphic using an airplane as a model to illustrate your risks from just proximity to other people — up to two seats away in any direction (not far in today’s planes) is moderate risk, up to four is low risk and beyond four is no identifiable risk.

Still worried?

You can limit time with other people in the dealership by doing your research online and hiring an auto broker to handle your entire transaction would be very wise.

Thank You all for reading we appreciate it very much.

Please keep me in mind if anyone wants to save money on a new or used vehicle. Also, if there are any vehicles you would like to sell, I can help with that too! Got an automotive question? Please feel free to email me at or call (503) 930-1493.