2009.05.20 It's not quite Carmageddon

Written by David Green.


 I’m sure that you don’t need me to tell you that General Motors and Chrysler gave the pink slip to nearly 2,000 of their dealers last week, with more to come. Luckily, those retailers in this area have managed to avoid termination so far.

That’s a good thing, as far as I’m concerned. Not only do I have quite a few friends among the ranks of dealership employees, the idea of having to go to some faraway, big-city dealer for service, parts or, hopefully many years in the future, a replacement for my loyal Buick isn’t a prospect I look forward to.

I still have a tough time buying GM and Chrysler’s reasoning for the dealership closures. None of these dealers are costing the company anything, they pay for everything the company sends them. The idea that fewer dealers means less competition for the remaining outlets, allowing them to raise prices, may be nice for the surviving dealers, but isn’t much comfort to customers who will have to travel longer distances to pay higher prices, not to mention the 100,000 or so people this little scheme could put out of work.

Another of the excuses given for dealership closures could backfire on Chrysler and GM big time. We’re always hearing about how Toyota and other foreign automakers have many fewer dealers than the domestic brands. Have they ever considered that abandoning hundreds of smaller towns and leaving empty dealer buildings and unemployed automotive professionals in their wake creates a perfect opportunity for Toyota, Honda and the other companies to move into small town America? Smaller towns they avoided before because of long-entrenched competition will be ripe for a new brand to fill the vacuum.

But enough doom and gloom, some people are still buying cars and others will do anything to sell them. A recent look through the automotive ads found at least one dealer who isn’t picky about who he sells to.

“No credit report,” shouts one ad. “We don’t need your credit report or your divorce papers. Even if you’re ugly, we won’t say no!” They’re even willing to take odd trades: “Push-Pull-Drag-We’ll Take Lawnmowers, Tractors, Diamonds, Motorcycles, Horses, Houses.” Still not sure about your credit? They can’t make it any more clearer than their ad’s tag line: “Unless you have been featured on ‘America’s Most Wanted,’ we can finance you.”

And if that dealer does happen to take in a tractor on trade, there’s an private party seller offering a 1982 Porsche for $2,500 or a tractor. The dealer can sell one car, taking in the tractor on trade, then trade the tractor for the Porsche. Then everybody’s happy, sort of.

Another dealer has a 1965 Ford Galaxie for sale, and I admire his honesty as he admits the car has “Lots of Bondo and rusty frame.” Of course, he still wants $2,800 for it.

A third dealer is advertising a 2008 Chevy Impala for only $9,750. That seems like quite a low price until you read the description and see it has 81,000 miles on it. How do you put 81,000 miles on a year-old car? It’s at a dealership in Muskegon. Do you suppose the previous owner commuted to work in Cleveland?

A person in Charlotte, Mich., has a 2001 Oldsmobile Alero for sale that “had small dash fire.” Before you pass this one by, consider this selling point: “Car doesn’t even stink.” Now you’re ready to buy, aren’t you?

Or maybe you would prefer a 1967 Volkswagen that has been completely torn apart, painted, and has lots of new parts for only $2,000. Wait a minute, there’s one more thing: “Needs to be reassembled,” Maybe we should leave that one to a professional.

Perhaps you’d be better off with a new vehicle. How about a 2009 Dodge Ram Crew Cab pickup, advertised as including “A Hemi with leather for your hiney’s pleasure.” The same dealer has another Dodge Ram with navigation “so you can go back into the woods and rescue your bow-tie buddies.” The guy sounds a little jealous of Chevrolet to me.

And finally, in the “This is a selling point?” department, we have a 1961 Ford Falcon two-door coupe. It has new tires, an AM radio and an automatic transmission, but that’s not why it’s $6,295. No, this little compact supposedly “belonged to Madonna’s dad.” Quick, my checkbook! Just kidding. Actually, I think the chances of someone buying this vehicle are “Borderline.”

  • Front.cowboy
    A PERFORMER named Biligbaatar, a member of the AnDa Union troupe from Inner Mongolia, dances at Stair District Library last week during a visit to the Midwest. The nine-member group blends a variety of traditions from Inner and Outer Mongolia. The music is described as drawing from “all the Mongol tribes that Genghis Khan unified.” The group considers itself music gatherers whose goal is to preserve traditional sounds of Mongolia. Biligbaatar grew up among traditional herders who live in yurts. Additional photos are on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.base Ball
    UMPIRE Thomas Henthorn tosses the bat between team captains Mikayla Price and Chuck Piskoti of Flint’s Lumber City Base Ball Club. Following the 1860 rules, after the bat was grabbed by the captains, captains’ hands advanced to the top of the bat—one hand on top of the other. The captain whose hand ended up on top decided who would bat first. Additional photos of Sunday’s game appear on page 12 of this week’s Observer. The contest was organized in conjunction with Stair District Library’s Hometown Teams exhibit that runs through Nov. 20.
  • Front.chat
    VALUE OF ATHLETICS—Morenci graduate John Bancroft (center) takes a turn at the microphone during a chat session at the opening of the Hometown Teams exhibit at Stair District Library. Clockwise to his left is John Dillon, Jed Hall, Jim Bauer, Joe Farquhar, George Hollstein, George Vereecke and Mike McDowell. Thomas Henthorn (at the podium) kicked off the conversation. Henthorn, a University of Michigan–Flint professor, will return to Morenci this Sunday to lead a game of vintage base ball at the school softball field.
  • Front.cross
    HUDSON RUNNER Jacob Morgan looks toward the top of the hill with dismay during the tough finish at Harrison Lake State Park. Fayette runner Jacob Garrow focuses on the summit, also, during the Eagle Invitational cross country run Saturday morning. Continuing rain and drizzle made the course even more challenging. Results of the race are in this week’s Observer.
  • Front.bear
    HOLDEN HUTCHISON gives a hug to a black bear cub—the product of a taxidermist’s skills—at the Michigan DNR’s Great Youth Jamboree. The event on Sunday marked the fourth year of the Jamboree. Additional photos are on page 12.
  • Front.hose Testing
    HOSE safety—The FireCatt hose testing company from Troy put Morenci Fire Department hose to the test Monday morning when Mill Street was closed to traffic. The company also checks nozzles and ladders for wear in an effort to keep fire fighters safe while on calls.

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