Oregon dealerships close amid wildfires; Lithia ‘very fortunate’

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Auto dealers across Oregon evacuated and temporarily closed due to wildfires that started earlier this week along the West Coast.

According to The Weather Channel California has at least 24 fires burning, Oregon has 14 and Washington has 12.

Some dealerships near Medford, Ore., were under evacuation orders on Wednesday. Lithia Toyota of Medford on Wednesday posted this message, “The health and safety of our staff, customers, and community is our top priority. Medford Toyota is closed today due to wildfires in the area.” The dealership reopened on Thursday.

In Ashland, Ore., Butler Ford and Butler Acura also evacuated and closed due to the fires.

“We evacuated our stores Tuesday at 11:30 a.m. And it was an instant evacuation,” Curtis Hancock, director of fixed operations at Butler Automotive Group told Automotive News. “We had zero heads-up. The fire started and became what it was within a mile of our facility. So we didn’t have any thoughts of shutting down. So we have cars in the air.”

TC Chevy Ashland in Oregon evacuated on Wednesday and will remain closed through the weekend.

In a Facebook post TC Chevy Ashland said: “We understand this is an inconvenience for our customers who were having or needing to have their vehicle serviced this week and we truly are sorry for that, but our number one concern is making sure our employees and customers are safe.”

The dealership said it hopes to be reopened by Monday and will continue to update their customers via Facebook.

“Some dealers down in Ashland have had to evacuate out last night,” Greg Remensperger, executive vice president of the Oregon Automobile Dealer Association, told Automotive News.
“They were not impacted by the fire yet, but they are not able to get back into their dealerships yet. They did have enough time to move out inventory and make sure everyone was safe.”

Lithia Motors Inc., based in Medford, Ore., so far has been spared from damage at its headquarters or area dealerships.

“We’ve been very fortunate given the circumstances,” Tom Dobry, Lithia’s chief marketing officer, said in an email on Thursday. “All of our stores are currently open (incl. California and Oregon) and the disruption to business has been minimal.

“We closed our home office yesterday in case evacuation was required. It was not. We reopened the office today. We have had a number of local (Southern Oregon) team members displaced by the fires but no injuries.

“We’re working with them to understand their individual needs and we’re working with Red Cross in Oregon to help with additional needs our communities have. Currently these needs are focused on people in temporary shelters.”

It wasn’t clear how many California or Washington dealerships may be impacted by the emerging disaster.

Four fires in California remain zero percent contained, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

The California Creek Fire in Fresno and Madera counties has forced more than 30,000 people out of their homes, according to CNN.

A Penske Automotive Group spokesman said none of the company’s stores in the region have closed, but added that the “biggest impact is from the smoke.”

The California New Car Dealers Association and Central California New Car Dealers Association could not be reached for comment as of Thursday afternoon.

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