'It was the right decision to make.' Detroit car dealer temporarily closes to fight coronavirus

Posted at 8:04 PM, Mar 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-19 20:05:22-04

DETROIT (WXYZ) — As coronavirus cases continue to increase, business owners all over Michigan are forced to make painful decisions. Do they close their doors to help stop the spread of the virus? Or do they stay open and risk financial devastation?

“We made the decision to close down our operation starting tonight for sales at 9 pm and for service tomorrow night at 6pm,” said Jeff Laethem, owner of two dealerships in Detroit: Ray Laethem Buick GMC and Ray Laethem Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram.

“For the health of our employees, our customers, we felt it was the right decision to make,” said Laethem on Thursday.

Both stores will be closed until April 6th.

“All of us are worried. The people that work here, they’re worried about their families at home, they’re worried about elderly family members, they’re worried about children at home. And this is a time to get together as a nation and fight this thing together. And we want to be a part of it,” said Laethem.

Laethem isn’t alone. Roy O’Brien Ford in St. Clair Shores has a notice on their website that they’re stopping sales and service until April 1.

The state health department will only say they strongly encourage “businesses to make smart choices based on science” for the decisions on whether to stay open.

Laethem says he has 150 employees who interact with potentially hundreds of other people each day, so for him, closing seemed essential to help flatten the curve for coronavirus cases.

“Traditional salespeople, we have outside sales, we have drivers that go from dealership to dealership, we have parts drivers, we have body shop technicians, service technicians, we have parts departments within the dealership, there’s the business development center, we’ve got the accounting offices where people are close together,” said Laethem. “So it’s a lot of interaction with the public, as well as car carriers bringing in vehicles, parts coming in through third parties, lots and lots of human interaction.”

Laethem told us he hopes other dealerships follow their lead in order to keep the public safe during this pandemic. He says he’s eager to get everyone back to work as soon as it’s safe.

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