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Brand new Nissan cars sit in the Richmond lot at the Hilltop Mall.

Auto dealerships in Richmond rebound from 2008 recession

on September 25, 2012

Richmond’s auto dealerships are being revived from what managers in Richmond are calling the worst few years of sales they’ve ever seen.

The city has reported a 35 percent increase in auto sales tax revenue for the first quarter of 2012. From January to March of 2012, new and used auto sales brought in $418,308 for the city in sales tax, up from $307,947 in the same period in 2011.

Jim Totah, the director of sales operation for companies such as Hyundai and Toyota in areas around the Bay, said this recession was different than others he’d seen because it hit all segments—housing, employment, and banking.

“It was the perfect storm,” Totah said.

In 2009, GM and Chrysler declared bankruptcy and received a $64-billion bailout from the federal government. Chrysler announced in 2009 that it would be closing 789 dealerships in the country—close to one-quarter of its total number of dealerships. Though the Chrysler dealership in Richmond didn’t close, it felt the strain

Greg Smith, the general sales manager at the Chrysler-Jeep-Dodge-Ram dealership in Richmond, said he’s been selling cars for 25 years.

He he remembered the 2001 recession, and “looking at the sales board and it was blank for a week.”

But he said what Chrysler went through in 2008 and 2009 was still worse. He attributes this to the bank’s large influence in sales for auto dealerships. In May of 2010, he said, 370 people walked through the doors and 101 of them couldn’t get a loan.

In 2011, things started turning around for the dealership. The monthly average of cars sold increased 52 percent compared to 2009.

In Richmond, more people are now able to successfully apply for loans. Smith said that in July of 2012, only 42 potential customers couldn’t get financed for an auto loan.

Totah said the auto presence at the Hilltop Mall is growing, with the Hanlees dealership building three new stores.

“We’re putting a lot of money into Richmond,” Totah said.

Walt Pusch, Chrysler area sales manager in the Bay Area, said he just came back from a convention in Las Vegas, where 6,000 people from Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge, and Fiat met to present 66 new cars those companies will be releasing over the next three years.

Pusch has been in the car-selling business for 30 years and said he’s reaching the end of his career, and that he’s glad he can end his job on a good note.

“It’s fun again,” he said.


  1. Greg Smith on September 25, 2012 at 12:09 pm


    • Rachel de Leon on September 25, 2012 at 12:25 pm

      Thanks for reading, Greg!

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