GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) - Some Michigan auto dealers are questioning whether the state's56-year-old ban on Sunday car sales should be lifted to helpstruggling dealerships find buyers for their cars.
Dan DeVos, who owns DP Fox and its 17 dealerships around thestate, said it makes little sense to keep struggling dealershipsclosed on a day when most potential buyers are free to go carshopping.
"When I was young, nothing was open. But lifestyles and thingshave changed so much since then. It would be logical, for so manyreasons, for the law to be lifted," DeVos told The Grand RapidsPress.
Michigan's blue law, which forbids Sunday car sales in countieswith more than 130,000 people, was passed in 1953, when the ChevyBel-Air, the Nash Rambler Country Club sedan and the Ford CrestlineVictoria were popular models.
Although the Cash for Clunkers program is boosting new carsales, the industry is still setting its sights low for 2009 U.S.auto production. In June, car sales were on pace to require just9.5 million vehicles this year; that's 40 percent below the 16million built just a few years ago.
Although to some it doesn't make sense that state law forcesdealers to stay closed when sales are badly needed, the MichiganAutomobile Dealers Association supports the blue law.
Some dealers have tried Sunday hours "and it didn't work," saidTerry Burns, executive vice president of the association, whichrepresents 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. ButBurns said the Sunday option still holds little allure for the 400dealers in the state's smaller counties.
"It's a combination of morale, employee structure, ability todevelop relationships with customers. It's also the inability tofinance the deal," he said.
Only two dealerships around Grand Ledge in Eaton Countyoccasionally open on Sundays, Burns said.
Besides Kent and Ottawa, the law bars Sunday car sales inBerrien, 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 thelaw generates plenty of opinions.
Some argue that dealers need to have a weekend day with theirfamilies. Others say staying open another day will boost costs at atime when dealerships are struggling to make ends meet.
In addition, auto insurance offices and banks are closed onSundays, 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 slowweekday and sell cars on Sunday, when the most people have the mostfree 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, andWisconsin.
In Ann Arbor, auto analyst David Cole said he was neutral on theSunday opening issue.
"Things are changing so fast, and ultimately the market's goingto rule on this kind of thing," Cole said.
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