Sponsored by Oregon Business

Car dealers collapse as sales drive off a cliff

| Print |  Email
Monday, December 01, 2008

CarDealers Hundreds of car dealerships across Oregon are closing their doors because of slumping demand.

STATEWIDE At first glance, the car lot in outer Southeast Portland looks like all the others nearby, plentifully stocked with “Dealer’s Specials” and “Fresh Start Financing” deals. But while the merchandise is still on display, the business is history, or at least in hibernation.

Thirteen car lots within two miles of this shuttered business have canceled their licenses in 2008, according to Department of Motor Vehicle records. Across Oregon, 270 dealerships have gone under or on hiatus over the past year.

Sky-high gas prices followed by a severe slump in consumer confidence have sent new car sales to their lowest level since World War II. While it is harder to track used car sales in the “EZ Financing” side of town, the same fundamentals apply, and the blight is spreading. Just down the street, another lonely herd of oversized SUVs lies out of reach behind a padlocked chain-link gate.

Used-car lots aren’t the only ones taking a hit. Oregon’s largest auto dealer and third-largest public company, Medford-based Lithia Motors, is losing money and attempting to trim 29 stores from its 13-state empire. Its stock has sunk 75% over the past year.

Major new-car dealerships from Brookings Harbor Ford on the southern coast to Dick Hannah Ford near the Rose Garden in Portland have closed, and more are expected to follow as the recession deepens. One of the state’s oldest dealerships, Gibson Motor Company, which sold Model T Fords when it opened in 1921, closed in November in Junction City. Motor vehicle employment in Oregon is down 14.5%, or 4,000 jobs, from a year ago.

Greg Remensperger, executive vice president of the Oregon Auto Dealers Association, says sales are down 30%. “People who have been in the business for 30, 40 years are saying they’ve never seen anything like this,” he says.

The dealers association has been running ads arguing that it is a great time to buy because financing is available and prices have dropped. The Kelly Blue Book, the benchmark standard for auto pricing has devalued suggested prices an unprecedented six times over the past four months.

“The minute we see one or two rays of sunshine there will be a pent-up bunch of people ready to go out and buy a car,” Remensperger says. Until then dealerships will be “hunkering down to make it through.”                                                         


Have an opinion? E-mail This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it




More Articles

After the Orange Line

Linda Baker
Tuesday, September 08, 2015
090815-trimet-thumbBY LINDA BAKER

Alan Lehto, TriMet's director of policy & planning, shares a few thoughts on ride sharing and more nimble bus services.


Back to School

September 2015
Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Oregon is home to an abundance of gritty warehouses reborn as trendy office spaces, as well as crafty hipsters turned entrepreneurs. Does the combination yield an equally bounteous office products sector? Not so much. Occupying the limited desk jockey space are Field Notes, a spinoff of Portland’s Draplin Design Company, and Schuttenworks, known for whittling Apple device stands. For a full complement of keyboard trays, docking stations and mouse pads, check out the GroveMade line, guaranteed to boost the cachet of even the lowliest cubicle drone. 


Up on the Roof

September 2015
Wednesday, August 19, 2015

In 2010 Vanessa Keitges and several investors purchased Portland-based Columbia Green Technologies, a green-roof company. The 13-person firm has a 200% annual growth rate, exports 30% of its product to Canada and received its first infusion of venture capital in 2014 from Yaletown Venture Partners. CEO Keitges, 40, a Southern Oregon native who serves on President Obama’s Export Council, talks about market innovation, scaling small business and why Oregon is falling behind in green-roof construction. 


Downtime with Patrick Criteser

October 2015
Monday, September 28, 2015

Live, Work Play with the President and CEO of Tillamook County Creamery Association.


The God complex

Linda Baker
Wednesday, September 30, 2015
093015-zydellren-thumbBY LINDA BAKER | EDITOR

The media coverage about Pope Francis must have put me in a Biblical frame of mind. Because after touring the latest phase of the South Waterfront development, a mind boggling 1.5 million square feet of office and retail space that will spring up north of the aerial tram over the next few years, I couldn’t stop thinking about the massive project as a modern day creation story.


Big Trouble in China?

Guest Blog
Tuesday, August 18, 2015
0818-wellmanthumbBY JASON NORRIS | CFA

Earlier this month, the People’s Bank of China (PBoC) announced they were going to devalue their currency, the Renminbi. While the amount of the targeted change was to be roughly 2 percent, investors read a lot more into the move. The Renminbi had been gradually appreciating against the U.S. dollar (see chart) as to attempt to alleviate concerns of being labeled a currency manipulator.


Child care challenge

September 2015
Wednesday, August 26, 2015
0927OHSUhealthystarts-thumbBY KIM MOORE AND LINDA BAKER

Child care in Oregon is expensive and hard to find. We delved into the numbers and talked to a few executives and managers about day care costs, accessibility and work-life balance.

Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02