Used car businessman still optimistic

Morton McArthur sells used imports in Cincinnati, OH. His sales have fallen, as people hold onto their cash or run into trouble getting loans.

TEXT OF INTERVIEW

Kai Ryssdal: This was a pretty good year to be in business journalism -- brand new stories every day. Often, like on days of a big bailout or another investment bank going under, there were new stories a couple of different times every day. We thought it'd be interesting to go back over our coverage of the fallout from the economic crisis. Check back in with some of the people we spoke with as the news was happening.

We begin today with Mort McArthur. He's a used car dealer -- Mort's Imports just outside Cincinnati. Our Amy Scott visited Mort while she was out on the road this fall, and at the time things weren't looking so good for him. Mort, welcome back to the program.

Mort McArthur: It's good to be with you. Thank you for having me back.

Ryssdal: I suppose the question ought to be, since you are back, how's business now as opposed to when we had you on a couple of months ago?

McArthur: The business at the moment for this month is about the same. Five out of the last six months have been losers, one month was about break-even. But I'm seeing more activity, I'm getting more e-mails, I'm getting more phone calls. It's just that people that have money have been reluctant to part with it, and people that don't have money have had a hard time securing loans.

Ryssdal: I want to play you a piece of tape from Amy Scott's piece in October, and then I'll come back and ask you about it.

McArthur: It's going to eventually come back. All I need to do is just withstand.

Ryssdal: You sound pretty optimistic for a guy who's been losing money five out of the last six months.

McArthur: Well, I am. And truthfully, and I have been losing the money -- I can show it to you both personally and in the business net worth -- but the truth is, one, I honestly believe that the income tax season will bring some relief. And every car dealership that goes out of business is one less car dealership that I'm going to be in competition with when it does crank back up. So mine now really is to endure. As long as I can withstand the pressure of the downturn, when things do make a turnaround, I should be able to be free and clear for a little while.

Ryssdal: Income tax season. You mean people get their refunds and they come out and buy a car from you?

McArthur: Correct. Yeah. When you sell for cash and don't do financing, a lot of people save that time of year to come, when they've got a large check that they can go ahead and do that with and they tie it with money they can borrow from a relative or money they've already got saved, or from another lending institution.

Ryssdal: What happens, Mort, if they next six months aren't real kind to you and the optimism that you have now is misplaced?

McArthur: Well, I probably won't be here six months from now if it's that bad. I'm sort of looking at if things have not brightened by March, then I will probably start the process of shutting down and/or taking the dealership itself into a different direction and maybe just going wholesale. These are not things that I really want to do, but they're things I got in the back of my head as a back-up position, rather than just closing the doors and having to go find employment for the last few graying years that I have left.

Ryssdal: Mort McArthur owns Mort's Imports, it's a used car dealership in Plainsville, Ohio, just outside Cincinnati. We had him on our special fallout series "The Road to Ruin" back in October. Amy Scott did a story on it. You can hear that at our website, Marketplace.org. Mort, thanks a lot.

McArthur: Hey, thank you Kai. I really appreciate it. Good luck on your end. I've got optimism on mine.

Ryssdal: Thanks a bunch.

About the author

Kai Ryssdal is the host and senior editor of Marketplace, public radio’s program on business and the economy.

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