(A 1983 Hertz survey of average purchase prices for compact cars in 20 large cities showed that Detroit, Houston and Dallas were tied with the lowest prices in the country. Including discounts and local taxes, Detroit's average price of $8,225 was more than 3% below the average of $8,502 in Los Angeles.)
Both McInerney and Hayes also claim that most of the pressure on dealers to remain closed on Saturdays comes from their employees, who see such closings as something of a fringe benefit. One local salesman, David Michels of Highland Park, Mich., recently wrote to the Detroit News to say that he had moved from San Diego to the Detroit area "because, as an automobile salesman, this is the only place in America where I may have a normal life and enjoy some of life's pleasures that the average working person takes for granted."
McInerney says dealers have restricted their hours in order to keep their employees from joining unions, and he complains that the FTC's action has sparked an organizing drive among local sales people by the Teamsters union, which scheduled a meeting with angry sales people last week. "It's a labor problem more than anything else," he says.
Hayes adds that the dealership employees who have harassed dealers open on Saturdays have done so without any backing from area dealers themselves.
"You've got 10,000 dealership employees in this area used to not working Saturdays, and they aren't about to start now," Hayes says.
Still, the fact that almost all of their competitors are closed on Saturdays has turned into a bonanza for the handful of local dealers who remain open. "We get a lot of sales opportunities as a result of being open then," says Tim Sullivan, general manager of Tom Sullivan Volkswagen in suburban Southfield, Mich., which has remained open on Saturdays since 1966, despite repeated incidents of vandalism.
AMC Dealer Cini adds that, since he is the only AMC dealer in town open on Saturdays, weekend customers come from all over to shop at his showroom. Saturday sales now account for 25% of his business. "If everybody was open on Saturdays, I wouldn't gain anything, but now I'm taking sales away from other dealers."