Automotive News
May 11, 2020

When Pilson Auto Centers founder Dan Pilson died last summer, it was son Jamie Pilson’s mission to give back to the community in his memory.

Offering free services during the COVID-19 pandemic was the perfect way to honor him.

The Illinois dealership group has three locations selling Ford, Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram and Fiat vehicles. Pilson is giving away $100,000 worth of free labor for front-line workers. The services include putting on new tires and fixing breaks.

“We’ve been able to help people in all walks of life,” said Josh Butler, Pilson Auto Centers’ integrator.

As of April 30, Pilson had serviced 66 vehicles at a cost of about $31,000. More than 100 more families that applied for the program have been contacted to make appointments.
The program will run until the $100,000 is depleted.
“Our culture is about being positive, being upbeat and giving back,” Butler said.

The Pilson stores are among a number of dealerships providing free services to support those on the front lines during the pandemic.

Recognizing workers

The 16-store Phil Long Dealerships group in Colorado is offering free oil changes and safety inspections to essential workers. The program started April 16 and initially was open to medical personnel and first responders. Since then, it has been used by DoorDash drivers and other essential workers in the food service industry.

“I think there are a lot of occupations that are essential that we’ve taken for granted over time that we are recognizing now,” Kevin Shaughnessy, Phil Long Dealerships vice president of operations, told Automotive News.

Phil Long Dealerships planned to run the program until April 30 but extended it in 15 stores through Saturday, May 16.

As of May 2, the group had performed 1,423 oil changes and safety inspections.

“As a group of car dealerships we’re not able to feed people and we’re not able to heal people, but one thing we can do is protect their freedom of movement by making sure their transportation is maintained and safe,” Shaughnessy said.

Henderson Hyundai owner Frank Maione says it was second nature to provide complimentary services to health care workers, first responders and military personnel when the coronavirus broke out.

The dealership is offering free towing, free labor for critical repairs and covering up to $145 in labor for noncritical services.

“Our owner recognized that this is one of those times where people need help,” said James Hantl, service director at Henderson Hyundai.

Helping the helpers

Hudson Ford, on the border of Wisconsin and Minnesota, is offering free oil changes and tire rotations for all health care workers and first responders.

“We just wanted to do what we could to help our health care workers,” said owner Mark Swelland. “They’re busy, and we can do this while they’re taking care of patients.”

Diehl Automotive Group in Pennsylvania is offering 25 percent off labor at all of its locations. The program was opened to health care workers April 7; first responders and truck drivers were added April 27. Owner Corina Diehl said the program will continue as long as the pandemic is impacting people.

“It was the right thing to do to help those that are helping us,” Diehl said.

Twelve people had used the Diehl group’s program as of Friday, May 8.

AutoNation also is offering 25 percent off all service work at its stores in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, Texas and Washington. The program runs through Sunday, May 17.

By Whitney McDonald