Michigan Auto Dealers Allowed to Resume Operations Under New Guidelines

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

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]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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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.

  • Eliyahu CVT needed for MPG. Outback is indeed the legacy of, err, the Legacy.
  • Gayneu I can comment on these. My wife always thought the Minis were "cute" so I bought her a used 2005 (non-S, 5 speed) for one of her "special" birthdays. She loved it and I kinda did too. Somehow a hole developed in the transmission case and the fluid drained out, ruining the car (too expensive to fix). A local mechanic bought it for $800.We then bought a used 2015 S (6 speed) which we still have today (80k miles). Her sister just bought a used S as well (also manual). It has been a dependable car but BMW-priced maintenance and premium gas hurts for sure. I think the earlier generation (like in the article) were better looking with cleaner lines. The 2015 S rides too stiff for me (Chicago roads) but is a hoot on smooth ones. It does seem to shift weird - its hard to describe but it shifts differently from every other manual I have driven. No matter how hard I try, so won't let go of her Mini.
  • Crown Seems like they cut some cylinders too.A three cylinder...where are they planning on selling that??
  • Slavuta "There’s also the problem of climate change, and the more intense weather that comes along with it"How could one even write something like this? We don't have more intense weather. We have better weather. When Earth started, it was a fiery ball. We don't know what weather was in 1700. And even if we know some of it in Europe, we don't know what was happening in Africa, South America, Oceania, etc. We have people living in places where they did not live before. We have news that report weather related events minutes later or during. This did not happen before. There is no evidence that we have an increase in intensity. I looked into historical records in the area where I live - there is not much movement at all between 1970 and now. And remember - none of the previous weather predictions have materialized.
  • VoGhost Very soon, every home will have a 240v outlet in the garage, which can function as your electric charger, just like a modern home has 120v electric outlets and light switches inside the house. This is where the market is going. You all would see that if you didn't have those oil soaked blinders on.