It's a dealer's dream… or is it? It's the Woodward Avenue Dream Cruise, an annual hot rod and classic car event that attracts between 1 million and 3 million people practically to the doorstep of 11 dealerships in suburban Detroit.
Owners of the old cars drive them up and down the 16-mile stretch of the region's historic main drag from Ferndale to Pontiac. It starts at 8 Mile Road, now infamous thanks to rapper Eminem's movie of the same name, and goes through eight municipalities, with throngs of people watching from the sides of the road.
How surprising is it, then, with upwards of 3 million people converging on Woodward Avenue that the dealerships sell no vehicles?
Not very surprising at all, say the affected dealers.
“You get 2 million or 3 million people in one place and no one has figured out a way to capitalize on it,” says Terry Mullin of Birmingham Import. “But there's no violence, a lot of fun and no damage to my building. I don't open the store up because it would be chaotic.”
But a lack of sales doesn't stop the enterprising auto retailers from using the eight-year-old event to entertain customers and employees and generate goodwill in the community.
“We're just going to hang out and have a good time,” says John Rossignol, operations manager at Village Chrysler Jeep on Woodward in Royal Oak. “In previous years, we've tried unsuccessfully to sell vehicles. So we've switched gears.”
Now, the dealership near 13 Mile Road focuses on customer and car club activities. Rossignol says he gives the local PT Cruiser Club a good price to park their 50-80 cars on his lot. He also makes room for a Jeep club and dealership customers.
“It's good for public relations, but not so good for selling cars,” says Rossignol “We've seen (the club people) come back for service, parts and accessories. And one guy is coming back to buy a car from us.”
In Ferndale, the new Fresard GMC store threw a big Dream Cruise party as a way to introduce itself to the community.
“I want everyone to know that we have a new store and that we're now a GMC dealer,” says Business Development Manager Jennifer Fresard.
Farther north in Birmingham, Fred Lavery Co. sells Audi, Porsche, Land Rover and Infinity vehicles.
General Manager Ali Haji Sheikh hosted a party at the dealership on the Friday night before the big Saturday event.
“We like the Friday night atmosphere,” he says. “But it takes a lot of effort and manpower to have something on Saturday. And we don't want the showroom open. You risk damage when that many people are roaming around.”
Up Wooward way is Mercedes-Benz of Bloomfield Hills. “We just allow our customers and employees to use the lot,” owner Chuck Ghesquiere says. “We clear our cars out of the yard and let them in. One guy comes every year in a motor home.”