The holidays are here, and many generous dealerships are showing their spirit by giving gifts to their communities in personal and thoughtful ways.
Here are some dealerships that stand out in this season of giving. Know of others? Tell us their stories in the comments and we'll highlight more next year.
Hardin Chevrolet: Hearts for the Holidays
Hardin Chevrolet, in Hardin Montana, has given a free used vehicle to a family in need every holiday season since 2008. "Every year we ask people to nominate a family in need of a car," says Ryan Shoppe, Internet manager at Hardin Chevrolet. "This year, we have about 200 nominations so far."
Friendship Volvo: Bikes for the Tykes
Friendship Volvo in Bristol, Tennessee has made a holiday habit out of giving bicycles to children in the local community. Over the past three years, the dealership has given away hundreds of new and refurbished bikes to kids from the local Boys and Girls Club of America during the holiday season. Although the dealership hasn't kept exact numbers, General Manager Denny Fruth estimates the dealership will give away upward of 200 bicycles this year.
In addition to buying new bikes for the giveaway, the dealership encouraged the surrounding community to donate used bikes, which the dealership staff reconditions and makes ready for new owners.
"We asked people if they had a bike in the garage or barn that wasn't being used, and if they would give it to us, regardless of the condition," Fruth says. The community has responded by dropping off bikes to the dealership, and for a few hours every week leading up to Christmas, the dealership staff set time apart to upgrade and recondition the used bikes with new parts and paint, tune-ups and thorough cleaning.
"I'd drive up to the dealership in the morning for work, and sometimes there would be two or three bikes out front that people dropped off while we were closed. The community really gets behind this," Fruth says.
Preferred Auto Group: 300 Free Christmas Trees
Giving away Christmas trees is something Preferred Auto Group began doing 20 years ago. That first year, the used-car dealer group, which is based in northern Indiana, gave away 25 trees. This year, the number of trees has grown to 300, and the dealership tradition has become an event so big that more than 100 volunteers were needed to make it happen. The dealer group does the giveaway to ensure everyone who wants a Christmas tree can have one.
Dressed in warm jackets and work gloves, volunteers spent the early hours of December 7 loading recipients' cars with free Christmas trees. Most volunteers were dealership employees donating a few hours of their day off to make the giveaway run smoothly. Some employees invited their families to lend a hand for the event.
The extra manpower came in handy, as there was a line of nearly 200 vehicles waiting to receive a free tree as soon as the event began. Santa gave candy canes and hugs to the kids while the dealership staff offered adults hot chocolate and coffee to fight off the cold.
The dealer group does other community outreach throughout year, but the Christmas tree giveaway seems to be one of the group's favorites. "It is the most emotional event that we have every year," Jay Leonard, owner of Preferred Auto Group, told Edmunds. "I am really lucky to have a group of people that believe in the same things that I do. My entire staff understands the importance of giving back."
Kiefer Automotive Group: Cars for Christmas
For the second year, Oregon's Kiefer Automotive Group will brighten the holiday season for a few local families in need of safe, reliable transportation. Each dealership in the group, Kiefer Kia, Kiefer Mazda and Kiefer Nissan, will be giving away a fully reconditioned used car to a family that has been nominated in the 20-day end-of-year holiday contest. The auto group also covers the cost of DMV registrations. The dealer group expects to get upward of 500 nominations, says Ramzi Habib, coordinator of the 2014 Kiefer Cars for Christmas charity event.
This year's winners will receive one of two minivans, or a fuel-efficient midsize sedan. Habib admits that although the auto group loves the promotion, there is one tough part: deciding who gets the vehicle. "When you hear these stories about folks and families down on their luck, of course you want to help every one.... It's difficult to select only three winners. We'd love to give everybody a car."
Randy Wise Automotive: Clothes and Gifts for Local Children in Need
Randy Wise Automotive is teaming up with Old Newsboys of Flint, a charity organization in Flint, Michigan that is dedicated to helping supply local needy children with clothing and gifts. Old Newsboys of Flint has been working with the area's less fortunate for 90 years.
Each time Randy Wise Automotive sells a car at one of its six locations this December, the dealership group will donate a Christmas holiday box to the Old Newsboys of Flint, who will then distribute the boxes to local children.
In the holiday box will be a sweatsuit, socks, underwear, gloves and a knit hat, in addition to a small toy. The dealer group hopes to donate more than 500 holiday boxes this Christmas season.
"This is the first time we've done this, and we are glad to be working with Old Newsboys," says Joe Riley, a sales manager in the Randy Wise Automotive Group. "What's important is that the gift baskets will be useful way after Christmas is over. It gets cold in Michigan. The sweatsuits and gloves will be put to good use."
To find a dealership that knows how to treat shoppers right, please visit Edmunds.com's Dealer Ratings and Reviews.