A freshman lawmaker thinks people should buy cars — but never on Sunday.
State Rep. John Allen, R-Scottsdale, has crafted legislation to make it illegal for automobile dealers to be open on Sundays.
Allen, who has sold cars for the Lou Grubb dealerships, said it is the only way to ensure that the sales staff gets at least one weekend day off with their families.
Allen said that, in an ideal world, government edicts would not be necessary. The dealerships would all agree to close voluntarily. But he said that experience proves that, absent a state law, the change won't happen.
Several major players tried about a year ago to all shut down on Sundays. But that lasted only a few weeks.
"Somebody turned on the lights and the agreement broke," Allen said.
Chris Strahan, general manager of the Chapman Automotive Group in Tempe, said his lot closed on Sundays as part of the agreement.
"Customers were upset we were closed," he said, even after leaving a skeleton crew on hand to say they could come back another day and took their names to contact them.
"They would say 'bull' and go somewhere else,'' Strahan said.
The net result was that sales dropped somewhere between 15 percent and 30 percent.
John Pfeil, general sales manager of Powell Volvo said he thought customers would like to be able to browse one day a week "without being harassed by salespeople.''
His dealership complied with the voluntary closure almost a year, until last October.
"You could tell we were losing three to five deals a month,'' he said. "And that's the ones we tracked."
But Berge Ford in Mesa is closed on Sundays in spite of missing out on potential sales. The dealership has been closed on Sundays off and on, with the most recent policy in place since Sept. 11, 2001, said Lee Nelson, new car sales manager at Berge.
"The good thing is that it gives everybody time off, and you have something you can plan on for family time," Nelson said. "You can also see your work mates outside of work. There are lots of positives."
In Tucson, Jim Click said when he set up shop in Arizona in the 1970s, he kept his dealerships open on Sundays because that's the way it was at his California operations. He quickly found that the other big dealerships were not open — and that having a seven-day-a-week operation really did not give him any major advantage.
Click said he's a big supporter of a mandatory day off.
But he does propose some exceptions to mandatory Sundays off. Dealerships could remain open on Sundays if the following day were a holiday. "I don't want to interfere with three-day holiday sales," he said.
Sunday sales also would be allowed at an auction that occurs only once a year — a provision aimed at the annual Barrett-Jackson auction in Scottsdale of collectible and antique cars.
And you still could buy a motorcycle on Sundays, as well as golf carts, mopeds, off-road vehicles and even motor homes.