Michigan Auto Dealers Allowed to Resume Operations Under New Guidelines

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
michigan auto dealers allowed to resume operations under new guidelines

Michigan auto dealers will be allowed to resume in-person sales on Tuesday, according to the latest in a long list of executive orders signed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. The state, which harbors the fourth-highest coronavirus death toll in the country (following New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts), has enacted some of the strictest countermeasures in the country.

This has created no shortage of pressure to both reopen Michigan so life/business can return to normal and maintain closures to avoid further contagion risks. Obviously, that’s proven difficult to do. All steps taken towards reopening come with conditions, including those established for Michigan’s dealerships.

But first, some backstory.

Whitmer has achieved national notoriety for her response to the coronavirus pandemic, to a point where she’s now considered as a likely running mate for presidential candidate Joe Biden. But she’s also becoming infamous within her own state for issuing some of the most aggressive lockdown orders in the country, broadly framing those protesting her safety measures as unconstitutional and racist — an important term that no longer seems to hold much weight, thanks to overuse.

One of the biggest issues revolves around the governor’s decision to extend and enhance lockdown prohibitions even after the GOP-led Michigan Legislature said it was withholding approval. It actually filed a lawsuit against her, only to be informed by the Michigan Court of Claims that her 90 executive orders could stand.

The situation has coalesced into an ugly and dramatic one, with heated rhetoric from all sides. Meanwhile, protesters have only ramped up the number of signs containing Whitmer’s face superimposed on the bodies of certain 20th-century dictators. Some are opting to embrace Michigan’s open-carry laws to show they’re not afraid to exercise the Second Amendment in the face of what they claim is an increasingly tyrannical government.

The latest fracas was bizarrely peaceable, however. Annoyed that leadership had essentially banned all small businesses from operating, salon owners elected to give demonstrators haircuts in front of the capitol building as a sign they will no longer adhere to executive orders that place their businesses at risk. It stopped after police issued tickets for disorderly conduct. Protesters responded by saying they may have to stop complying with authorities entirely, something organizers had been hoping to avoid.

With so much measurable anger, you’d think Michigan hadn’t budged an inch on those contentious executive orders. Yet Whitmer is also under a wild amount of pressure to ease up from big business. Here, she’s proven more willing to comply, allowing automakers and parts suppliers to return to work under new health guidelines.

Next up are the car dealers, which will be given clemency for in-person sales and some strict rules for doing business.

Storefronts will be required to adhere to social distancing practices and never have more than 10 people on site — a rule which extends to all activities within the state, even though citizens are largely forbidden from leaving their homes, anyway. While big chain stores haven’t adhered to that mandate in the slightest, auto retailers are technically supposed to.

Whitmer’s office said showrooms will be required to provide COVID-19 training to employees, ensuring they understand how to use personal protective equipment (masks & shit) and understand the state-backed infection control practices — including how to test for and report cases to the government. Staff will also have an avenue for reporting unsafe working conditions.

If you happen to be a Michigander that’s excited by the prospect of browsing the wares at your local auto dealer (starting on May 26th), prepare to be disappointed. Michigan is currently allowing sites to take customers by appointment only. That means you have to call in advance to ensure you’re nowhere near another person who doesn’t work at the dealership. This condition is less than idyllic for auto retailers, but still represents a victory for an industry that’s dying to move product.

We also don’t believe it’ll last very long. Those protesting Whitmer’s executive orders are not decreasing in number, and most other states imposing stringent lockdown orders on car dealerships have already walked them back. Even New Jersey, which enacted similarly aggressive countermeasures and has a higher death toll than Michigan, allowed dealers to start making face-to-face appointments with customers on Tuesday.

[Image: Gretchen Gunda Enger/Shutterstock]

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7 of 18 comments
  • Thornmark Thornmark on May 22, 2020

    the crazy gov Whitmer just extended the shutdown and is still sending sick people into nursing homes Whitmer is immune to science and knowledge - dementia joe is actually considering her as his losing vp choice

  • Ect Ect on May 23, 2020

    Matt, this post is not about the auto industry, it's simply a right-wing screed. Shame on you for writing it, and on TTAC for posting it. Detroit was an early hotspot, and Michigan continues to incur a steady level of new Covid-19 cases. One may say that the lockdown measures have flattened the curve, but haven't yet put it on a downward trajectory. And that's without factoring in the deficiency in testing that afflicts the country as a whole. Michigan has no basis for relaxing its rules, which Governor Whitmer has recognized. Stick to the auto industry, Matt. Your public health credentials are non-existent

    • See 4 previous
    • Inside Looking Out Inside Looking Out on May 23, 2020

      @Lou_BC You better not. More likely than not you will not like the future.

  • Dukeisduke I still think the name Bzzzzzzzzzzt! would have been better.
  • Dukeisduke I subscribed to both Road & Track and Car and Driver for over 25 years, but it's been close to 20 years since I dropped both. I tried their digital versions with their reader software (can't remember the name now), but it wasn't the same. I let it lapse after a year.From what I've seen of R&T's print version, it's turned into more of a lifestyle thing like The Robb Report. I haven't seen an issue of C/D in a while.I enjoyed both magazines a lot when I was subscribing. R&T for the road tests (especially the April Fools road tests), used car reviews, historical articles, and columns like Peter Egan's Side Glances and Dennis Simanitis's Technical Correspondence. And C/D for the road tests and pithy commentary, and columns like Gordon Baxter's, and Jean Shepherd's (that goes way back to the early '70s).
  • Steve Biro It takes very clever or amusing content for me to sit through a video vehicle review. And most do not include that.Tim, you wrote :"Niche titles aren't dying because of a lack of interest from enthusiasts, but because of broader changes in the economics of media, at least in this author's opinion."You're right about the broader changes in economics. But the truth is that there IS a lack of interest from enthusiasts. Part of it is demographics. Young people coming up are generally not car and truck fans. That doesn't mean there are no young enthusiasts but the numbers are much smaller. And even those who consider themselves enthusiasts seem to have mixed feelings. Just take a look at Jalopnik.And then we come to the real problem: The vast majority of new vehicles coming out today are not interesting to enthusiasts, are not fun to drive and/or are just not affordable.You can argue that EVs are technically interesting and should create enthusiasm. But the truth is they are not fun to drive, don't work well enough yet for most people and are very expensive.EVs on the race track? Have you ever been to a Formula E race? Please.And even if we set EVs aside, the electronic nannies that are being forced on us pretty much preclude a satisfying driving experience in any brand-new vehicle, regardless of propulsion system. Sure, many consumers who view cars as transportation appliances may welcome this technology. But they are not enthusiasts. I don't know about you, but I and most car fans I know don't want smart phones on wheels.There is simply not that much of interest to write about. Car and Driver and Road & Track are dipping deeper into nostalgia and their archives as a result. R&T is big on sponsoring road trips for enthusiasts - which is a great idea. But only people with money to burn need apply.And then there is the problem of quality in automotive writing. As more experienced people are let go and more money is cut from publications, the quality and length of pieces keeps going down, leading to the inevitable self-fulfilling prophecy.Even the output on this site is sharply reduced from its peak. And the number of responses to posts seems a small fraction of what it used to be. This is my first comment since the site was recently relaunched. I don't expect to be making many in the future.Frankly Tim - and it gives me no pleasure to write this - but your post makes me feel as though the people running this site have run out of ideas and TTAC's days may be numbered.Cutbacks in automotive journalism are upsetting. But, until there is something exciting and fun to write about, they are going to continue. Perhaps automotive enthusiasm really was a 20th century phenomenon..
  • THX1136 I think that the good ole interwebs is at least partially to blame. When folks can get content for free, what is the motivation to pay to read? I'm guilty of this big time. Gotta pay to read!? Forget it! I'll go somewhere else or do without. And since a majority of folks have that portable PC disguised as a phone in their pocket, no need for print. The amount of info easily available is the other factor the web brings to bear. It's perhaps harder now to stand out. Standing out is necessary to continued success.In an industry I've been interested (and participated) in, the one magazine (Mix) I subscribed to has become a shadow of it's former self (200 pgs now down to 75). I like print for the reasons mentioned by another earlier. I can 'access' it in a non-linear fashion and it's easily portable for me. (Don't own a smarty pants phone and don't plan to at the moment.)I would agree with others: useful comparison reviews, unique content not easily available other places, occasional ringers (Baruth, Sajeev, et al) - it would be attractive to me anyway. I enjoy Corey, Matt and Murilee and hope they continue to contribute here.
  • Daniel J I wish auto journos would do more comparisons. They do some but many are just from notes from a previous review compared to a new review. I see where journos go out to a location and test drive and review a vehicle on location but that does absolutely nothing for me without any comparison to similar cars. I also wish more journos spent more time on seat comfort. I guess that doesn't matter much when many journos seem to be smaller folks where comfort isn't as important. Ergonomics are usually just glossed over unless there is something very specific about the ergonomics that tick the journo off. I honestly get more from most youtube reviews than I ever do about reviews written on a page.