This post has been updated as of February 17, 2021, based on developments.
It seems the answer is, "It may, but it's unclear." Looking just at the text of California's stay-at-home orders, they appear to have precluded repossessions while in effect. By not specifically exempting workers in the collection or collateral recovery aspects of the financial sector as "essential", the California stay-at-home orders arguably were meant to cease all physical car repossessions, since such activity involves violating the letter of the orders (by going outside without being "essential"), as well as the spirit of the orders, because repossessions could result in in-person contact (which the stay-at-home orders have meant to limit). On the other hand, the California state government has tried to pass a law (AB 2501), and local governments have sought additional regulations, barring car repossessions during the pandemic. Arguably, those laws and regulations would have been unnecessary if the stay-at-home orders precluded car repossessions. Without a published opinion on this issue, there is no clear guidance as to whether repossessions were permissible while a stay-at-home order was in effect.
Please visit our page regarding The Coronavirus Pandemic: Car Payments and Repossessions to learn more about the impact of the Coronavirus and stay-at-home orders on consumers’ car payments and automobile repossessions.