Hail ravages thousands of vehicles at Nebraska, Iowa dealerships

More than half of Woodhouse's inventory sustained damage, the dealership said. Photo credit: WOODHOUSE

Woodhouse Auto Family, the owner of Woodhouse Ford in Blair, Neb., known for its Truck Mountain, said it sustained damage to nearly 4,400 of its vehicles Tuesday night as storms pelted the Midwest with baseball-sized hail.

The storms hit Woodhouse stores and other dealerships in Nebraska and western Iowa, leading to slashed prices and immediate damage assessments by insurance adjusters.

Jason Pittack, co-owner of Woodhouse Auto Family, said vehicles at Woodhouse’s Ford and Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram stores in Blair and its Chevrolet-Buick store in Missouri Valley, Iowa, were damaged. The affected vehicles make up more than half of the group’s inventory.

Tuesday wasn’t the first time Woodhouse and other dealerships have had to weather a natural disaster. Pittack said a similar storm hit the dealership group around the same date in 2004.

“We seem to go through a version of this every few years,” he said.

During Tuesday’s storm, the Woodhouse stores’ first priority was sheltering vehicles that had been bought and were waiting for delivery. Pittack said the few that sustained damage will be replaced. The group is holding a “hail sale” to move the affected vehicles off the lots. Pittack said the storm could be a benefit in the long run, speeding up sales.

“Adjusters were here this morning getting everything ready to roll,” he said today. “The information broke on local news last night … people have been crawling all over the lots.”

Woodhouse has been communicating with customers about the storm damage and sale via Twitter since it assessed the damage Tuesday night.

Pittack said it will be a greater challenge to deal with the influx of demand than the hail itself, calling the next few days a “track meet.” He added that the other major concern was the safety of Woodhouse employees, many of whom sustained damage to their personal vehicles and homes in the storm.

Sid Dillon Chevrolet in Blair saw damage on almost all 800 of its vehicles. Jim Nelson, the dealership’s general manager, said the hail blew out the windows and sunroofs of most of the cars.

He said: “It looks like bowling balls fell out of the sky when you see some of the cars.”

Nora Naughton contributed to this report.

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