Modern Detroit traces its origins back to a man named Cadillac -- Antoine Laumet de La Mothe, sieur de Cadillac, to be precise, a French adventurer who founded Fort Pontchartrain du Detroit in 1701.
Three hundred and eight years later the birthplace of the modern automotive industry is to lose the last downtown auto dealership that sells cars bearing his name.
Dalgleish Cadillac -- which has sold the luxury car brand in Motor City for General Motors Corp since 1954 -- was informed in early June that by September 2010 they must close as part of the automaker's restructuring plans.
The dealership's owners say the stunning news came in a letter signed simply General Motors Corporation.
GM didn't exactly go about this in a classy way, said current owner Doug Dalgleish, 80, who still comes to work every day. They didn't even have the guts to sign anyone's name.
In 1954 Doug's father Charles, a Canadian-born son of Scottish immigrants, began selling Cadillacs. In 1964 he moved to the dealership's present site just a few blocks from the hulking gray edifice that was GM's headquarters until 1996. The first Cadillac was made literally across the street in 1902. GM was founded six years later.
The Dalgleish family and some customers -- including one of Detroit's politically influential pastors -- say they intend to fight GM's closure plan for as long as they can.
We haven't completely given up hope yet, said Doug's son Keith Dalgleish, 47, who began working here at the age of 10 sweeping floors. We'll see this through to the end.
Though the Dalgleish family says its dealership does not meet GM's criteria for closure, a GM spokeswoman said the firm must shrink its dealer network to become competitive and so many dealers have to go.
HURTING MOM AND POP
GM dealers around the country have been hit.
The U.S. recession and the credit crunch have resulted in the worst auto sales in 27 years, forcing GM and fellow U.S. automaker Chrysler Group LLC to seek government aid then bankruptcy protection. GM's restructuring plan, like Chrysler's, includes drastic cuts to its dealer network.
In May, GM said it would cut around 1,100 dealers -- besides 500 that will go as GM sells brands like Hummer -- news that has been greeted with a storm of protest from dealers and many members of U.S. Congress. Keith Dalgleish said the dealership survived the first round as it met GM targets for customer service and sales effectiveness -- how local sales compare to competitors such as Ford's Lincoln, Toyota's Lexus and Daimler AG's Mercedes-Benz -- but then discovered it was among 250 more slated for closure.
We were head and shoulders above most other dealers and met all of GM's criteria, he said. We have appealed but we received an unsigned response telling us we were rejected.
The Reverend Horace Sheffield, one of the city's powerful pastors and a Dalgleish customer of 15 years, said he is calling residents to action to protest GM's decision to close Dalgleish Cadillac as the loss of the dealer's 60 jobs would further hurt Detroit's already depressed economy.
This is just one more business that's going to be exported from Detroit, Sheffield said. We already have to go to the suburbs to get food, clothing and everything else.
Shutting this dealership is simply not acceptable, he added. Sheffield said he bought a Cadillac just last month to show his support for Dalgleish and GM.
The Dalgleishes say their new agreement with GM restricts new vehicle orders, which they say they will appeal.
GM is making a mistake. We provide a valuable service for customers, said Dalgleish's body shop coordinator James Darby. We need to fight this because it's totally irrational.
GM spokeswoman Susan Garontakos said she could not comment on individual dealers, adding that the second round of cuts was not based on the same benchmarks as the first round.
They could be in the wrong market, or they could be in a market that is saturated with dealers, she said.
Dealers due to close will not receive new cars, she said.
The idea is for them to wind down their business and get rid of excess inventory, Garontakos said. It makes no sense to provide new cars if they're winding down their businesses.
Cadillac has 1,400 dealers nationwide compared to less than 400 for Lexus, BMW and Mercedes, she said, adding we have to try to come into line with the competition.
Doug Dalgleish -- not the owner Doug, but another son -- said cutting long-standing dealers would not help GM.
GM thinks their product is stronger than it is, he said. But people buy from us and other mom-and-pop dealers around the country because we've served them for generations.
Once we're gone, I think GM will lose those customers.