By on May 22, 2020

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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18 Comments on “Michigan Auto Dealers Allowed to Resume Operations Under New Guidelines...”

  • avatar

    Whitner also re-upped her order seeding the nursing homes w/ `the sick, just like NY’s Cuomo

    from the DetNews Editorial

    “Gov. Gretchen Whitmer must reverse course on her executive order that is placing Michigan’s most vulnerable seniors at risk. It’s a matter of life and death.

    In mid-April Whitmer issued an executive order that ultimately instructed many of the state’s nursing homes to accept COVID-19 patients. That put other residents in jeopardy, and may well have contributed to the high death rate in Michigan nursing homes.”

    and unlike Cuomo, Whitmer didn’t reverse course, she pig-headedly doubled down

  • avatar

    How quickly “flatten the curve” was replaced with “get used to the new normal”, and the mainstream media didn’t even blink.

  • avatar

    Keep everything closed.
    Schools (now a working parent must stay home)
    Crush the economy.
    Help Elect Biden s VP. He ll only hang on to the office for 6 months max.
    Orange Man Bad.
    Day after election day. Open everything.

    • 0 avatar

      There’s a great quote by E W Howe. “A thief believes everybody steals.”

      Maybe the Republican Party is so cynical and morally base as to risk lives for the sake of an election. I’d prefer to hope not. But maybe they do and they assume everybody else is just as much a piece of shit.

      But I do know that the reason for the lockdown isn’t because anyone on the left thinks it’ll help them win an election. It’s because the overwhelming scientific evidence for anyone with a basic understanding of high school level biology indicates that some level of lockdown is currently the best way to prevent people from dying. And that’s supposed to be what our government is there for, right? To protect and help us during disasters?

    • 0 avatar


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  • avatar

    Here’s a tip if you live in Michigan:

    You’ll be in good company (second chart here):

    [The first chart in that article is a good (bad) example of a misleading non-zero baseline.]

  • avatar

    You guys all said it was just a regular flu anyway.

  • avatar

    Why do you need economy if there is a government? Just stay at home and get your check, enjoy life and save the planet at the same time.

  • avatar

    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

  • avatar

    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

    • 0 avatar

      I’m not going to get open heart surgery from a plumber just because he has strong opinions about cardiology. I’m not all that interested in Matt’s opinions about, say, epidemiology or environmental science, because no matter how strongly held, they’re irrelevant vs. the consensus of lifelong experts in those fields.

      “Make America Great Again” is a great slogan — no wonder Trump stole it from Reagan. But thinking back to when America actually was great, when the headline was essentially “Holy Sh!t, Man Walks on F0cking Moon” — it was the era of the public intellectual, of the best and brightest going into government, of idealism being a value and not a punchline. I don’t know how we got from there to worshiping the loudmouth know-it-all at the end of the bar, whether in person or on talk radio or reality TV, but I’m pretty sure that change has been an unmitigated disaster for our country.

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