With remote sales OK, car dealerships get rolling again

PLAINFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — With Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s extended “Stay Home, Stay Safe” executive order allowing car dealerships to sell or lease remotely, they are adapting to meet the needed boost in business.

Before the pandemic, Tony Betten & Sons Ford north of Grand Rapids was selling about 200 vehicles per month. After the changes, it is expecting to sell between 25 and 50 vehicles over the next three weeks.

“We have people that want to buy cars today and want to shop for cars today,” Glenn Betten, owner of Tony Betten & Sons Ford, said. “Now we’re able to satisfy that.”

The vacant showroom at Tony Betten & Sons Ford north of Grand Rapids. (April 10, 2020)

The service department has remained open, but the showrooms remain dark, quiet and closed, with the sales process entirely moving to an online delivery model.

“We’re able to take the car to the customer’s home, resanitize the car and then sign, potentially, on the hood of the car for it,” he said.

If you want to try it before you buy it, you still can.

“The car will be sitting by itself and sanitized with a plate on it and gassed,” Betten said. “And the customer will just come and do his own test drive.”

It’s not quite back to normal, but at least there’s now a pulse on the sales floor.

“We have a list of our normal customers who have been, before the shutdown, have been wanting to buy cars and so we have prospects ready to go,” Betten said.

Many dealerships will start adopting similar models during the stay-at-home order.