"When the bankruptcies ended, whoever had the merchandise sold the cars, and whoever sold the cars got more cars. It was a turn-and-earn, and we were in a really good spot," Alexander said. "We continued to over-order, growing our inventory, and our sales grew" because other dealers in the region, who had cautiously retrenched, had little to sell.
Now armed with growing sales and an enthusiastic lending partner, Alexander reinvested in his dealerships and bought others. It didn't hurt that, just as his businesses were expanding, his region experienced a boom from hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, turbocharging his commercial-truck operations.
"We were always in the buy-and-close mode," clearing out eight smaller competitors in his region, and strengthening the throughputs of his stores, he said. Meanwhile, Alexander's two sons, Aubrey and Adam, took on larger roles, installing business development centers in all of the dealerships and strengthening and growing service operations.
Before the recession, Alexander's small group of dealerships collectively sold about 6,000 new and used vehicles a year. Last year, the group sold 18,091 new and used vehicles, and wholesaled another 9,000.
And that initial savior $30 million line of credit from PNC? It's now $220 million.
"In this business, the key to any situation — and the saving grace for us — was having our capital at the proper levels and having our customer satisfaction and our service satisfaction at the proper levels," Alexander said. "If you have those things in order, you can weather any storm."