(AP File Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
Updated: Monday, 03 Aug 2009, 10:19 AM EDT
Published : Sunday, 02 Aug 2009, 8:16 PM EDT
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) - Some Michigan auto dealers are questioning whether the state's 56-year-old ban on Sunday car sales should be lifted to help struggling dealerships find buyers for their cars.
Dan DeVos, who owns DP Fox and its 17 dealerships around the state, said it makes little sense to keep struggling dealerships closed on a day when most potential buyers are free to go car shopping.
"When I was young, nothing was open. But lifestyles and things have changed so much since then. It would be logical, for so many reasons, for the law to be lifted," DeVos told The Grand Rapids Press.
Michigan's blue law, which forbids Sunday car sales in counties with more than 130,000 people, was passed in 1953, when the Chevy Bel-Air, the Nash Rambler Country Club sedan and the Ford Crestline Victoria were popular models.
Although the Cash for Clunkers program is boosting new car sales, the industry is still setting its sights low for 2009 U.S. auto production. In June, car sales were on pace to require just 9.5 million vehicles this year; that's 40 percent below the 16 million built just a few years ago.
Although to some it doesn't make sense that state law forces dealers to stay closed when sales are badly needed, the Michigan Automobile Dealers Association supports the blue law.
Some dealers have tried Sunday hours "and it didn't work," said Terry Burns, executive vice president of the association, which represents more than 700 new car dealers.
"It's difficult to staff a seven-day operation," he said.
Michigan's law only affects the state's larger counties. But Burns said the Sunday option still holds little allure for the 400 dealers in the state's smaller counties.
"It's a combination of morale, employee structure, ability to develop relationships with customers. It's also the inability to finance the deal," he said.
Only two dealerships around Grand Ledge in Eaton County occasionally open on Sundays, Burns said.
Besides Kent and Ottawa, the law bars Sunday car sales in Berrien, Calhoun, Genesee, Ingham, Jackson, Kalamazoo, Livingston, Macomb, Monroe, Muskegon, Oakland, St. Clair, Saginaw, Washtenaw, and Wayne counties, based on the latest census.
Many dealers say they like the never-on-Sunday schedule, but the law generates plenty of opinions.
Some argue that dealers need to have a weekend day with their families. Others say staying open another day will boost costs at a time when dealerships are struggling to make ends meet.
In addition, auto insurance offices and banks are closed on Sundays, so deals can't be finalized.
But opponents of the law say that Sunday has become less sacred. They argue that dealerships could close on a traditionally slow weekday and sell cars on Sunday, when the most people have the most free time.
Michigan is one of 13 states nationwide to bar Sunday car sales. Others are Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, Oklahoma, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.
In Ann Arbor, auto analyst David Cole said he was neutral on the Sunday opening issue.
"Things are changing so fast, and ultimately the market's going to rule on this kind of thing," Cole said.