Route to Recovery

A trip through the epicenters of the recession

Toyota dealer weathering the storm, worrying about commercial lending

November 16, 2009


BIRMINGHAM, Alabama – It is not an easy time to be an auto dealer. Apart from worrying about when sales will revive, and at what level, Bruce Limbaugh’s biggest worry is access to loans.

“This is a major challenge for our industry,” said the owner of Limbaugh Toyota. “Even more than credit for consumers, I am concerned about the lack of commercial lending for dealers. Local and regional banks in particular are spurning our dealers.”

Limbaugh’s father bought the Toyota dealership that he now runs back in 1989 and sold it to him in 1995. Like the rest of the U.S. auto industry, Limbaugh Toyota has been hurt by a combination of the recession, the U.S. housing crisis and the credit crunch. So far this year new car sales at the dealership are down 22.6 percent. The industry as a whole has seen U.S. sales fall from a peak of 17 million units in 2005 to an estimated level of just over 10 million units in 2009.

“For us, this truly is a Great Recession,” Limbaugh said. “My net worth has been cut in half over the last year.”

That said, Limbaugh said that last month was the dealership’s second most profitable October in 20 years, and that sales were actually up over October 2008.

“Every month since February our bottom line has improved,” he said.


Over the past year Limbaugh has cut his staff to 67 from 75. He would “rather not cut that anymore. But the market will dictate that.”

Long term, he believes the auto industry and sales will turn around for what for him is truly a family business. He has three sons and a son-in-law working at his dealership and another son-in-law owns the advertising agency that handles his marketing.

Photo by Carlos Barria

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“Do I think we will recover? Absolutely,” he said. “I’m banking my family’s future on it.”


This, like times for most business owners, is how it is. I, as a business owner, would like things to be better, but it is what it is. What bothers me most is the callousness of bankers, wallstreet, and our government. Our president talked about caring for people, but he just pays lip service to small businesses and is a party line man through and through.

I went through this in the early 1980s with the Jimmy Carter and Ronald Regan storm, and I learned to keep reserves when times gets tough. I am happy I don’t have a big inventory to manage as that would be tough right now.

Posted by f belz | Report as abusive

The President is pushing hard on all cylinders to revive a economy that has been totaly neglected for eight years.we dont need a false bubble ridden recovery.We need a fundemental change in the structure of this economy.The area of education to handle uture high tech opportunities must be handled,alternative energy,our local,state and national infrastructure and regulation that will prevent this from happening again.Its take nine month for a baby to be born.Our economy is more complex than that process and should take longer than eleven months to turn around.Put your money in banks that lend.Those are your real friends.

Posted by Sylvester | Report as abusive

and this was all before their cars starting speeding up and driving through buildings lol… The crazy part is their always rated number #1.

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Posted by Jill Bradlie | Report as abusive

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