Car Dealerships Crash

The list of big-name auto dealerships closing their doors has grown. The mega-dealer Lawrence Marshall shut down and laid off 240 employees this week. As Laurie Johnson reports —
Houston auto sales are down about 17 percent.

Lawrence Marshall in Hempstead was known for one thing:

“We clobber big city prices”

Unfortunately the economy clobbered Lawrence Marshall instead.

The nationally-known high-volume dealership is the third in a string of big closures.

Landmark Chevrolet and Bill Heard both closed their doors late last year.

Houston Automobile Dealers Association President Walter Wainwright says Houston’s market outpaced other major cities, but sales are still down sharply.

“We have about 180 members and they sell close to a half million new and used cars in the greater Houston area and they employ about 30,000 people. So it’s a big industry, big business and we’re hoping that come second quarter, third quarter we’ll see some improvement.”

In the meantime, he says dealers are doing everything possible to cut expenses and push sales.

“You know advertising is a big part of that, that’s a big expense. And you’ve seen big cut-backs there. In some cases we’ve had some lay-offs, you regret to see that happen. At some point in time, if you’ve done everything you can do and you’re still not making it then you’ve got to consider all your options. We’re very hopeful that we won’t in Houston have a significant number of closures.”

Nationwide, Wainwright says as many as 1,500 dealers could go under. But he says Houston is in a much better position to be able to ride out the recession.

Laurie Johnson. KUHF-Houston Public Radio news.


Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson


Laurie is a native Houstonian who started her career at Houston Public Media in 2002. Laurie has covered a wide variety of topics for HPM, including the crash of the Space Shuttle Columbia, Hurricanes Katrina and Ike, and numerous elections. She is a frequent contributor to NPR and has been...

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