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A Closer Look E-mail the author

Dixie Salvage, LLC
Scott Ambrose • 352-498-7000

Scott Ambrose worked in the parts business – starting with new parts and working his way to used parts over time – for most of his working career.

When he was a youngster, Ambrose said he was “always tinkering with cars” and “fell into the parts end of it.” When he was in high school, he started washing cars at a local car dealership and worked his way up to parts manager.

Sometime later, he spent 10 years working for Dixie Salvage. The owner of Dixie at that time said that if he ever decided to sell the business, he would offer it to Ambrose first. Before that happened, Ambrose had moved on to another company. About eight years ago he was offered the opportunity to buy Dixie Salvage, as promised. So he bought it.

The majority of the cars that come into Dixie Salvage’s 32-acre yard come from auto auctions. Some are purchased because Ambrose knows the parts will sell, while some are purchased strictly for the scrap value.

Ambrose said that about 90 percent of the cars and trucks that come in get processed for parts. They start in a holding area, and then move to a dismantling area where the drive train is checked and removed, fluids are drained and gas tanks are removed. The fast-selling parts are removed immediately, while other parts are removed as needed.

Dixie Salvage is the only full-service yard in a five-county area, according to Ambrose. It’s more work, but it sets him apart from the competition. Since the yard is about 50 miles from the closest large city, Ambrose needs to travel a little further than some of his competitors to deliver to customers. He currently delivers used parts within a 100-mile radius which covers customers in several large cities.

Ambrose has a route set up that covers his regular customers. He delivers only to commercial accounts like body shops and car repair shops, but he sells parts to individuals who come to his yard.

He said that while the distance from the large population centers is a bit of a disadvantage, the location also has advantages. For one thing, it’s close to where Ambrose grew up, so he knows many people in the area. Also, Dixie Salvage has been in business for quite a long time and is well known. It’s also located close to the highway for easy access.

In the years he has been in the business, he has seen a lot of changes, both with the vehicles, and with the business. “You have to be a lot sharper,” he said. In the beginning, the competition used to be the new-parts manufacturers, but now the internet makes it easy for anyone to buy parts from anywhere.

He said that there is “a lot of interest in data consolidation in the used parts business.” Online sites collect parts information from a large number of sellers. Insurance adjusters use that information when writing repair estimates, and often they specify where the used parts should be purchased from.

“The internet is a double-edged sword,” he said. It makes it easier to sell parts to distant customers, but it also means that everyone can see everyone else’s inventory. “It’s important to keep the inventory updated and to have pricing correct,” he said.

Ambrose said that the biggest problem in the industry is that exporters show up at auctions and bid against local dealers. This drives the price up, and also takes the cars out of the country. “Exporters spend no money in this country,” he said, “They never produce income here.”

Local buyers, on the other hand, are paying taxes, supporting employees, buying groceries and paying utility bills to support the local economy.

Since laws are different overseas, vehicles that would be considered totaled in the U.S. could be repaired and put back on the road in other countries, so the exporters can pay more for those cars, making it difficult for local buyers to compete.

But it’s not just the exporters that are putting totaled cars back on the street. Ambrose said that laws are not consistent among states, so there are some out-of-state bidders who come to Florida to buy cars with the intention of repairing them instead of parting them out.

Ambrose hopes that laws will be changed to make the rules consistent in all 50 states. “When a car is totaled, it shouldn’t go back on the road,” he said.

The local salvage yards are also competition, bidding for popular cars, or those with known problems that would require replacement parts. “Everyone knows which cars are popular,” Ambrose said,

Even with all the changes and challenges through the years, he still enjoys what he does, and the fact that auto recycling was one of the first “green” businesses. But more than anything else, he’s proud that his business is one that always saves his customers money.

After a lifetime in the business, Ambrose said, “I’ve worked for the big guys and the small guys,” he said. “I learned a lot and tried to bring the best to my business.”