For most inhabitants of suburbia, a car is a necessity. And for the past 42 years, Morris Motors — formerly known as Dick Morris Gateway Chevrolet — has been fulfilling that need for residents of west Oakland County.
The dealership had its beginnings at the end of the summer of 1969, when Dick Morris bought the Taylor car dealership in Walled Lake and turned it into a Chevrolet dealership. He operated out of that facility until he bought land in Commerce Township near Haggerty Road and Pontiac Trail, where the current dealership stands.
However, a little under a year ago in October 2010, Rick Morris (Dick’s son) had to make a decision about restructuring after the dealership lost its Chevrolet franchise due to a reorganization following the bankruptcy of General Motors (GM).
“It was frightening losing the Chevrolet franchise,” he said. “It’s what I had known my whole life, and what my father worked for his whole life.
“But after prayer and reflection, I was able to convey to my father that we are able to provide necessary services to the community. A vehicle is something in this area you need to have to go to work, to take your kids to school, and to get to the grocery store. We provide a necessary service — we keep cars running or help others to replace their vehicle. And there is a definite need for that, so we decided to stay and service those needs,” said Rick Morris, the dealership’s current owner.
His father, Dick, the business’ namesake, passed away earlier this year.
The transition from a franchise dealership to dealing in pre-owned vehicles and servicing vehicles was not completely out of the blue. Morris had been selling pre-owned cars before “leasing was even on the landscape at all,” and the business had an existing service department.
“When we stopped being a GM dealer, our pre-owned area — instead of being our secondary sales area — just became our primary sales area,” he said.
This also means that Morris Motors — which had predominantly used GM inventory — branched out its selection of pre-owned vehicles to include Ford and Chrysler models, and European and Asian vehicles.
Despite the challenge of having a whole source of income lost from the sales of new vehicles and warranty work in the service department, Morris remains optimistic as the business now receives positive feedback from customers, especially in the service department.
“We are getting more new word-of-mouth customers than when we did warranty work, which is very encouraging as people are coming into the service department now knowing that they are spending their own money and not the manufacturer’s,” he said.
Morris said even those who still take their cars to GM dealerships for warranty work bring their cars to his business for maintenance items and oil changes. He attributes this to a reflection of Morris Motors’ quality customer service.
“All we are doing is what is expected of us in terms of personal service. We do a great job on the technical end, but technical proficiency can be overshadowed if personal service is inaccurate or inefficient,” Morris said. “What we’re doing is just what some businesses take for granted. Customers are really looking for that — to come to a business and have high-quality service without the pressure to spend more of their money.”
And with today’s economy, spending money wisely is more important than ever — something that Morris recognizes in his business model, which is to provide pre-owned vehicles that financially fit the customer’s needs and desires.
Morris recognizes that many people incurred debt by leasing or trading in their vehicle every two to three years before the automobile industry and national economy collapsed.
“There’s nothing wrong with buying a new car every two to three years, but (doing so and) getting into debt is not financially healthy,” he said. “There are great values out there in pre-owned cars. You can still have the amenities you got used to when leasing cars, such as heated seats. You can still get all the features you want, but you may have to give up one — that (it) is brand new.”
Morris Motors is able to offer peace of mind to customers by inspecting each used vehicle and offering protection plans.
“We have a business plan that serves the needs of our customer,” he said. “Too many customers have allowed their spending habits to serve businesses, and it’s supposed to be the other way around. Businesses should serve them.”
And Morris Motors serves more than just the community’s vehicular needs, as the business sponsors numerous events ranging from school functions to churches to veterans throughout the community.
“That’s always been a big part of being a business here is being able to give back to the community,” Morris said. “And I appreciate all the support we’ve received from the community as we go through this transition. And personally, the condolences, thoughts, and prayers I received from the community when my father passed away have been a great comfort to me.”