DETROIT -- Among the 58 GM dealerships to be shut down across Michigan, a casualty is Audette Cadillac, started by one of the biggest names in the Detroit area dealer community.
Frank Audette, 84, created the Troy Motor Mall in 1960 and married the daughter of Edward Fisher, one of the famous Fisher brothers involved with General Motors from its earliest days.
Though there are many dealers being closed in the area, the Audette situation has been stirring to local dealers.
That one was a shock, said Paul Stanford, president of Les Stanford Chevrolet in Dearborn, Mich. To see a guy like that go out is really unbelievable.
In 1960, Audette purchased a parcel of land several miles north of the Detroit border for a car dealership.
At the time, dealerships were migrating into the northern suburbs. The land for Audette's Pontiac dealership at that corner was vacant, said Jack Fowler, who was sales manager for the dealership once it opened.
Fowler said Audette fought the battles with local government to have the property rezoned to commercial and then developed the site, literally paving the way for the other dealers.
He was the one who put it all together, Fowler said.
Audette later sold parcels of land to other dealers, first to what is now Suburban Volkswagen of Troy, which is one of the 11 stores owned by the Troy, Mich.-based Suburban Collection in the motor mall. David Fischer is president and CEO of the Suburban Collection.
The second dealership was Mike Savoie Chevrolet, Fowler said. Other dealers followed, and the cluster is now home to 20 car dealerships.
By 1975, Audette sold his Pontiac dealership to Fowler and John McMullen because he opened the West Bloomfield Cadillac operation and was not allowed, at the time, to own two GM dealerships.
Fowler remains president at what is now Somerset Pontiac.
In addition to contributing to the metro Detroit car dealer network, Audette's family ties to GM are deep, through one of the most well known names in the region.
Frank's late wife, Peggy Fisher, was the daughter of Edward Fisher, one of the iconic brothers who created the Fisher Body Co., which partnered with GM in the early 1900s.
The company was the supplier for Cadillac and Buick bodies, as well as Ford Motor Co. and was considered the world's largest supplier of auto bodies in 1914. The logo for the Fisher Body Co. was stamped on GM cars for most of the 20th century.
Majority ownership of Fisher Body was acquired by General Motors in 1919. Edward Fisher later became a GM vice president and went on to serve on the board of directors.
An online petition is circulating to save Audette Cadillac, urging customers to call GM and save the dealership. The petition, started by an anonymous customer, now has more than 500 digital signatures.
General manager Mark Audette said the family hasn't decided what the next move will be for the property or the business.
Maybe there's a future down the road, we don't know right now, he said.
There are a lot of painful stories like Audette's in the area right now, said Barron Meade, president of Detroit-based Meade Automotive Inc. and the Detroit Automobile Dealers Association.
But at the same time, there are a lot of people who are going to find new ways to remain in the industry, Meade said. They have a lot of knowledge, and luckily, they're not all running away with that knowledge.