Lithia Revved Up Over Entry into Local Auto Market

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Nearly a century of one family’s involvement with the automotive business in Central Oregon has come to a halt after Bob Thomas Car Company completed an agreement to transfer ownership to Lithia Motors, Inc., of Medford.

Lithia acquired the Honda of Bend franchise and agreed to the transfer of Chevrolet and Cadillac brands in a deal which the company estimates will add $35 million in annual revenues.

Bob Thomas, president of Bob Thomas Car Company, was working with General Motors to retain the Chevrolet and Cadillac nameplates when an agreement was reached that allowed the ownership change to take place.

“It works for us, for our employees, for our customers and for Lithia,” he said. “It fairly compensates our organization for two valued GM franchises and for Honda.

“I’m grateful that General Motors recognized the importance of keeping the GM lines well represented in Central Oregon and that Honda endorsed Lithia as its new representative here.”

Sid DeBoer, president of Lithia Motors, whom Thomas says he has known and respected for over 30 years, concurred that nothing but positives will come from the transaction.

“Lithia is excited about serving the Bend area market,” he said. “By the parties finding a solution, Lithia will be able to operate from the existing Bob Thomas location with no interruption in service to customers.

“As an Oregon-based company headquartered in a similar-sized city, we pride ourselves on understanding these communities and their customers.”

The Bend Garage Company, doing business as Bob Thomas Car Company, was started in 1916 by Thomas’ grandfather Walter G. Coombs. Thomas’s father, Robert W. Thomas, took over as dealer operator from 1958-1981.

Originally a GM-exclusive dealership offering Chevrolet, Cadillac and Buick, the dealership expanded to include the Honda brand in 1975.

The company occupied seven sites in Bend prior to locating in its current building, on Third Street, in 1967.

Thomas said: “We’ve expanded, remodeled and promoted our current location to make it fulfill our customers’ needs. We’re pleased that Lithia will continue to occupy our family-owned facility.”

He added that his two adult children have both been involved in the business over the years, but realistically a fourth generation wasn’t an option for the company as the pair have chosen professional careers in health care, one as a director of mission integration and spiritual care for Providence Health and Services and the other as a physical therapist at the University of Washington Medical Center.

As signs and license plates undergo change at the landmark dealership site, Thomas, who is well-known as a stalwart of the local community, said: “Over the years we’ve had several opportunities to exit the automobile business, but this is the right one at the right time and under the right circumstances.

“We are so very grateful to Central Oregon for 94 years of support and wish Lithia a long tenure serving this area as well.

“An important part of our decision to settle with General Motors and to sell Honda to Lithia was our desire to keep our employees’ jobs and to provide our customers with the service and sales opportunities to which they are accustomed. It’s the same great team, selling the same reliable brands at the same familiar place.”

Lithia Motors, Inc. is the ninth largest automotive retailer in the United States and a publicly-traded Fortune 800 company.

Lithia sells 26 brands of new and all brands of used vehicles at 83 stores, which are located in 12 states. It also arranges finance, warranty and credit insurance contracts; and provides vehicle parts, maintenance and repair services at all of its locations.

As the Bend deal was consummated, Lithia also announced the disposal of its Fresno, California, Dodge store to Fresno Chrysler Jeep, Inc. The store represented $17 million in estimated annual revenues.

DeBoer added: “These two transactions continue our progress towards diversification and improving our brand mix.”

For further information, contact dealership; tel. 541- 382-2911.

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