Wolf administration sought bids for two new Ford Expedition SUVs amid statewide shutdown of dealerships

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — Why is the Wolf administration looking to buy new vehicles, when dealerships are closed across the state?

A midstate lawmaker posted about it online, and it got a lot of attention.

“At a time when auto dealerships are shut down across Pennsylvania, the state of Pennsylvania is soliciting bids for two vehicles for the governor’s security detail,” said Dauphin County State Rep. Andrew Lewis (R-105).

Lewis said he learned of the PA E-Marketplace bid for two 2020 Ford Expedition Limited Max SUVs, from a dealership in his district (the marketplace is a publicly-accessible site where bids for a variety of state projects or items are listed).

“A lot of dealerships right now across Pennsylvania are forced to shut down, and their sales departments aren’t able to be open to even respond to this type of bid,” he said.

That dealership contacted Lewis, he said, after they received a notice of solicitation from the state for those two Ford SUVs, which start at about $65,000. The dealership, Lewis said, was worried the bid could potentially go to an out-of-state business that’s still able to sell cars.

“There’s no reason auto sales can’t continue safely, I think transportation is very clearly a life-sustaining industry,” Lewis said.

The Wolf administration has since cancelled the bid, telling ABC27 it’s been in the works for a while and was only recently posted.

“The solicitation process started before the COVID-19 emergency and was limited to PA-licensed dealers,” said spokesman, Troy Thompson, with the Department of General Services. “The solicitation has been delayed until further notice.”

On a press call Thursday, Governor Wolf said there are no plans to reopen dealerships anytime soon.

“There’s no reason to take our feet off the brakes at this point, we need to get through this phase as quickly as possible and keep Pennsylvanians safe,” Wolf said.

“It’s the concept in general — yes, they suspended the bid right now but why was it ever published and who’s making these decisions?” Lewis asked.

He said car sales can happen remotely, and that a provision in Senate Bill 841 about electronic notaries is a good place to start.

“The same dealership in my district said they can sell a car, completely online, deliver it to your doorstep, [and] have the keys on the seat,” Lewis said.

Wolf’s press office clarified that no new vehicles have been added to the governor’s fleet.

“The executive detail has not acquired new vehicles, and does not anticipate acquiring new vehicles in the near future,” said spokeswoman, Lyndsay Kensinger. “The end of life for these vehicles is earlier than typical vehicles due to safety and security requirements. When vehicles begin to reach end of life, Pennsylvania State Police begin a thorough procurement process with the Department of General Services.”

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