Fire crews could see the smoke and flames from the station even before they arrived at the Capitol Toyota dealership, 775 W. Capitol Expressway, San Jose fire Capt. Scott Kouns said.
"They were fully involved," Kouns said of the burning cars. "They were really going."
Firefighters went down the row of cars, systematically extinguishing the flames one vehicle at a time, he said. The fire was declared under control at 2:12 p.m., 11 minutes after crews received the initial call, Kouns said.
The nine cars were all trade-ins from customers who participated in the federal Cash for Clunkers program, he said.
"The good thing is they were going to be destroyed anyway," Kouns said. While most of the vehicles were destroyed, two cars survived with "just some heat exposure."
A subsequent investigation determined that "excessive heat from the engine compartment" in one of the cars started the fire, Kouns said.
While crews were initially concerned the flames might damage a nearby apartment building, the fire didn't affect any nearby structures, Kouns said. Nobody was injured.