STERLING HEIGHTS, Michigan — Suburban Ford handed over the keys to a 2015 Taurus to Detroiter James Robertson, whose 21-mile walk to work triggered an outpouring of money and attention around the U.S.
The dealership's donation was among several offers — including the offer of a 2014 Chevrolet Sonic or a 2014 Cruze from Rodgers Chevrolet in Woodhaven, Michigan. The factory worker's marathon commute was first chronicled in the Detroit Free Press.
Suburban Ford invited him to the dealership to "start to look at new cars," Suburban Ford General Sales Manager Jim Elder III told Edmunds.
When Robertson walked through the door, Suburban Collection co-owner David Fischer Jr. was on hand to tell him his dream Taurus, with a sticker price of $35,215, was his free of charge, taxes and all.
"My dad and I are the proud owners of the Suburban Collection and we have been truly inspired by your story and we wanted to give you a little thank-you gift," Fischer told him.
Elder provided more details about the donation.
"We were able to surprise him," he said. "He's pretty much offline because he doesn't have a smartphone and he doesn't have time to watch TV."
Ford Motor Company put out a Tweet Friday complimenting the dealership. It read, "Humbled to have employees in the #Ford network like #SubCollection with hearts of gold."
Robertson would have been able to afford the Taurus on his own after Evan Leedy, 19, a computer student at Wayne State University in Detroit, started a GoFundMe page after hearing about Robertson's situation. As of Monday afternoon, $351,000 had been raised by 13,249 crowd-funders in just eight days.
The dealership gave Robertson a congratulatory sheet cake, too, which he took to his work to share with his colleagues. Because it's been 10 years since he's driven, a dealership employee drove him all but one mile to the job and Robertson took over in the final mile in his fully loaded Taurus.
"He drove great," Elder said.
Suburban Ford's phone has been ringing nonstop since the gift, Elder said.
"He has such a work ethic and a resilience to make it to work on time every day for 10 years walking on foot," Elder said. "We could help and it was great to be a small part of his story."
Edmunds says: The first feel-good story of the year gets an even happier ending from a caring dealership.