JAMIE LaREAU

Colorado dealers step up in a time of crisis

Jamie LaReau covers auto dealers for Automotive News.Jamie LaReau covers auto dealers for Automotive News.
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It has been a long, hot summer for dealers in Colorado.

First, there was a drought and wildfires. Then last week there was a mass murder.

As is often the case in the wake of natural disasters or other tragedies, local car dealers are stepping up in the recovery effort.

Many Colorado dealers are offering money and help to the people impacted by the July 20 mass murder near Denver, where a gunman entered a movie theater and killed 12 people and wounded 58.

“That was a big hit to us and to our community,” says Don Hicks, CEO of Shortline Auto Group in Aurora, Colo. “Store traffic is down and people’s moods have been more sober and somber. It’s taken the excitement out of life for people, as it should.”

But Hicks and other dealers are taking action.

Ed Bozarth, owner of Ed Bozarth Chevrolet, and his partners have formed a fund to aid the shooting victims. They are launching the fund with their own donation of $50,000. Of that, $30,000 will go to victims’ families. The balance will be split evenly between the Aurora police and fire departments. Any additional contributions will benefit the victims’ families’ fund, Bozarth said in a statement.

Bozarth owns five Chevrolet stores, three of which are in Colorado -- Aurora, Park Meadows and Grand Junction.

Then there’s Phil Long Dealerships in Colorado Springs, about 40 miles south of Aurora, which bought a full-page newspaper ad expressing condolences. That ad will run this week in The Denver Post, says Mike Cimino, co-owner of the dealership group, which has 12 stores in Colorado and New Mexico and sells about 16,000 total new and used vehicles annually.

Cimino also will donate $5,000 to help shooting victims and their families, he says.

His dealership group donated about $100,000 in vehicles and service work to help those in his community after a wildfire swept through Colorado Springs last month. The fire destroyed 346 homes and killed two people. Two of his employees lost their homes in the blaze.

Meanwhile, Hicks has stores about three miles from the theater where the shooting occurred, he says. He sells Subaru, Suzuki, Hyundai and Kia brands in Aurora and Porsche in Colorado Springs. In total, he sells about 5,000 new and used vehicles annually.

“As yet, we have not formulated what we should do,” Hicks said. “We’re waiting to see what kinds of funds will be set up to make sure money goes to the appropriate entities. Some of my employees are volunteering to give blood.”

Hicks and his staff, though not directly impacted by the shooting, remain in shock.

“Everybody’s just sad. Everybody’s disappointed that somebody could do this,” Hicks says.

His voice then cracks when he speaks of a 6-year-old child killed in the shooting. He says he’s reminded of his 6-year-old granddaughter who he taught to water ski recently.

“I think of how it could have been her,” he says.

And it’s that sort of empathy that motivates Hicks and many dealers to keep giving when a community is in crisis.

You can reach Jamie LaReau at jlareau@crain.com. -- Follow Jamie on Twitter

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