Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Auto Dealers Try to Hold on; Even at Longtime Dealerships, Sales Grind to a Halt

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Auto Dealers Try to Hold on; Even at Longtime Dealerships, Sales Grind to a Halt

Article excerpt

Byline: LARRY HANNAN

Two years ago, George Moore was about to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to remodel his car dealership. But Moore decided to wait before spending that money and now he is relieved that he waited.

"I would probably be closed now if I had done that," said the owner of George Moore Chevrolet on Beach Boulevard in Jacksonville Beach. "I don't think any of us have experienced a recession like this."

Sales are down. Layoffs are up. No one is sure when the economy will get better.

Frank Griffin, who has been selling cars in Jacksonville since 1957, said this is the worst he has ever seen it.

"We've had bad times before, but I've never seen sales just come to a stop like they have now," Griffin said. "When I was a salesman, I used to sell 30 cars a month by myself. Now most dealerships are lucky if they sell 30 cars total in a month."

Moore said car sales dropped by 35 percent from 2007 to 2008. The dealership has gone from 71 employees to 45.

"We've had to make some tough decisions in order to survive this recession," he said.

Nationwide, many car dealers are just holding on.

According to Edmunds Inc.'s automotive industry Web site, autoobserver.com, auto sales dropped by almost 3 million in 2008, from 16.1 million in 2007 to 13.2 million in 2008. The loss was particularly acute for the Detroit three, with General Motors sales down by 23 percent, Ford sales down by 20 percent and Chrysler sales down by 30 percent.

Bloomberg News has reported that General Motors plans to close about 500 dealerships this year, and might close 1,700 by the end of 2012.

The main focus of George Moore Chevrolet has been on customer retention. People who buy a car are getting e-mails and calls to see how the new car is doing, and the dealership tries to make sure people who come in have a positive experience.

Moore is also focused on making sure people come back to get their car serviced, and there hasn't been a big dropoff in that department, he said.

Orange Park's Frank Griffin Chrysler Jeep dealership closed in December after being open for almost 20 years. …

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