California Dealers Brace For Water Restrictions

California’s four-year drought already has affected sales and operations at some dealerships there. With the imposition last week of statewide mandatory water restrictions, they could face further challenges, dealers and others said.

California Gov. Jerry Brown issued the restrictions in an executive order — the first in state history — after record-low Sierra Nevada snowpack levels were measured earlier that day. The measurements found the snowpack was at just 6 percent of the long-term average.

Brown’s order requires the State Water Resources Control Board to reduce the water usage of California’s 400 local water supply agencies by 25 percent.

Kim McPhaul, director of communications and marketing for the California New Car Dealers Association, said it will take time for the organization to respond to the new restrictions.

“The governor’s mandate passed it off to local agencies to apply regulations, so it will probably take awhile for each local agency to decide on what enforcement will be,” McPhaul said.

Though the mandatory restrictions were issued abruptly after the snow-pack measurement, dealerships in the Central Valley region have been experiencing increasing difficulties from the prolonged drought.

“We’ve been on water controls for awhile,” said Mark Schultz, general manager of Fresno Infiniti.

Such controls include using recycled water in the car wash, low-flow faucets and drought-tolerant plants in the showroom.

More important to the dealership, Schultz said, was the impact of lack of water to the local agricultural economy.

For the farming households in his market, “there is $10,000-$12,000 less in income in the Central Valley to begin with,” compared with the rest of the state on an annual basis, he said. “The added economic impact of the drought has affected sales.”

He declined to say how much his dealership’s sales have been hurt by four years of poor crops.

While Fresno Infiniti’s operations have not been significantly altered by the water controls up to now, extended low-water conditions could lead to more drastic measures, he said.

“The primary concern is, do we get to the point where we restrict car washes?” Schultz said. “We haven’t quite reached that point, but we will if we go [through] another year of continuing drought conditions.”

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