Metro Atlanta-based auto dealership group furloughs 2,300, cuts pay

In this July 10, 2019, photo Volkswagen Jetta sedans are lined up at the Quirk dealership in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
In this July 10, 2019, photo Volkswagen Jetta sedans are lined up at the Quirk dealership in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Duluth-based Asbury Automotive, one of the nation’s largest vehicle dealership groups, said it has furloughed 2,300 employees, temporarily reduced pay for all workers, halted 401(k) matches and made other cuts amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Asbury suffered “a sudden and significant decline” in its sales and service business as a result of ripple effects from the pandemic, the company wrote in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing on Friday.

The company’s holdings including the Nalley Automotive Group in metro Atlanta. Overall, Asbury had about 8,500 full- and part-time employees at the end of last year, with 88 dealership locations in Florida, the Carolinas, Virginia, Texas, Mississippi, Indiana, Colorado, Missouri and Georgia. Asbury generated $7.2 billion in revenue last year.

In addition to the furloughs and pay reductions — including a 50% slice in base salary for chief executive officer David Hult — Asbury said it has reduced store hours, chopped marketing expenses, deferred most capital expenditures and negotiated discounts with some vendors.

It said it “cannot predict the duration of the pandemic and resulting economic impact on its business.”

Asbury recently announced it has borrowed an additional $347 million to deal with the tough economic times. It also canceled its previously announced deal to pay $1 billion for certain assets of Park Place Dealerships, a group centered in the Dallas/Fort Worth area that would have significantly increased Asbury’s stake in luxury vehicle sales.