Legacy now Toyota-only

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A local car dealership has shed some of its non-productiveinventory in a realignment owners hope will strengthen it for thefuture.

Brookhaven’s Legacy Chrysler Dodge Jeep has “de-dualed,”dropping the Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep brands from its lot andkeeping only Toyota vehicles, said General Manager BillyCrozier.

The shift has resulted in 14 layoffs, and 10 employees from theChrysler Dodge Jeep side of the business have transferred to LegacyToyota, he said. The business now employs 23.

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“We’re really just putting all our eggs in the Toyota basket,”Crozier said. “They are the No. 1 auto manufacturer and we’re goingto focus all our efforts in growing with Toyota.”

Crozier said the switch was made because the domestic vehiclesales were down approximately 35 percent over 18 months, and thecost of keeping them in the inventory with so little demand was toogreat. He said domestics require a bigger down payment, highinterest rates and more credit.

Toyotas are popular with the public in the midst of a badeconomy, Crozier said, because of their fuel efficiency and lowercosts. He said the average cost of a new Chrysler, Dodge or Jeepwas $33,000, while the average cost of a new Toyota was $21,000.Crozier said the imports also retain their value longer thandomestics.

“It was the best move, to go with Toyota, and put all our energytoward serving our customers with what we consider the bestmanufacturer in the car business,” Crozier said.

Legacy Toyota will still service its former domestic lineup,Crozier said. Some of the domestic-side technicians have beenretained, and the store will still be able to order Chrysler, Dodgeand Jeep parts.

To meet the new all-Toyota theme of Legacy, Crozier said thestore would implement the company’s Image Three plan, a renovationof the show room that streamlines the area for better customer flowand appearance. The work should be done by 2010, he said.

Crozier also hopes that Toyota sales will make up the differenceof lost revenue on domestic sales, hopefully allowing Legacy toexpand its operation and hire back its 14 terminated employees, whowill have the first shot at any new jobs at the dealership.

The loss of 14 more jobs in the midst of economic woe isdisappointing, but the continuance of Legacy Toyota is important toBrookhaven, said Brookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber of CommerceExecutive Vice President Cliff Brumfield.

“Car dealerships make up a tremendous amount of our retail mixin local sales,” he said. “During an average economic year,approximately 30 percent of our sales tax generation comes from carsales. It brings to focus how important it is to do business withour local dealership base.”

Brumfield pointed out that Brookhavenites should not fret thereplacement of domestic brands with import brands, because theimports are almost domestic themselves.

“Those Japanese cars are made in America, mostly bySoutherners,” he said.