Automakers donate to charities, offer customers support in storm's wake
Photo credit: Reuters
Superstorm Sandy has triggered an outpouring of charitable outreach from automakers.
For example, Toyota Motor Corp. will give $1 million to the American Red Cross and other non-profit groups to aid relief efforts for storm victims in regions that took the heaviest damage, the company said late Wednesday.
Mercedes-Benz U.S.A., which has 83 dealerships in the northeast, also said the same day that it will make a $1 million donation to the American Red Cross. General Motors, Ford Motor Co. and Volkswagen Group of America also have made cash contributions to American Red Cross.
The National Automobile Dealers Association today said it has committed $1 million to jump-start a national fund raising campaign for the Emergency Relief Fund of the National Automobile Dealers Charitable Foundation.
The emergency fund helps dealership employees who are affected by national disasters, said David Hyatt, a spokesman for NADA.
Since the fund was started in 1992, about $5 million has been handed over to 7,753 employees from around the country who suffered from Hurricane Katrina, floods and other recent national disasters, Hyatt said.
Hyatt said NADA does not yet know the needs of dealership employees affected by hurricane Sandy. "We wanted to get out in front of this for when the requests for assistance come in," he said.
Trucks and OnStar
Chevrolet said it donated 50 trucks to the American Red Cross that are equipped with 300 OnStar Hands-Free Calling minutes and three months of its turn-by-turn navigation.
During the storm, OnStar freed up its features for 1 million subscribers in impacted zones on the east coast, including hands-free calling and its navigation service. "We opened up all services to them, so it doesn't matter what package you have," Cheryl McCarron, an Onstar communications manager, told Automotive News.
Red Cross giving
Beyond its own donation, Toyota will match employee contributions to the American Red Cross and other non-profits assisting impacted cities.
Toyota said company operations and dealerships in the New Jersey area were affected the most, with regional and branch offices and Lexus and Scion stores experiencing flooding and power outages. Plus, Toyota Logistics Services at the Port of Newark in New Jersey took water damage to it buildings and vehicles, the company said.
"Since we have operations and many dealerships in the affected regions, we felt a special responsibility to lend a hand," Shigeki Terashi, COO of Toyota Motor North America, said in a statement.
Mercedes-Benz U.S.A., headquartered in Montvale, N.J., has a regional office in Parsippany, N.J.; a parts distribution center in Robbinsville, N.J.; and a vehicle preparation center in Baltimore, Md.
"The devastation that Hurricane Sandy left behind will be felt for a long time in the communities in which we live and work," Steve Cannon, CEO of the U.S. unit of the German luxury automaker, said in a statement.
In other announcements:
BMW of North America, headquartered in hard-hit Woodcliff Lake, N.J., is donating $1 million to the American Red Cross. The luxury car maker also has dealerships, seaports and distribution facilities in the Northeast, the company said.
American Honda Motor Co. today pledged to give $500,000 to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund. "The Honda donation consists of cash as well as Honda products including portable generators and water pumps for use in the relief and rebuilding efforts," the company statement said. "A special company fund will match its associates' personal contributions to the Red Cross on a dollar-for-dollar basis at various Honda companies."
The Volkswagen of America Foundation, on behalf of the Volkswagen Group of America, said today that it will make an immediate donation of $500,000 to the American Red Cross to provide support for affected areas across the northeast.
Fisker Automotive, makers of the Karma luxury plug-in electric hybrid, are allowing power utility trucks and repair crews from as far away as Florida to use its Wilmington, Del., factory as a home base while they work to restore power and clear roads, the company said.
The Ford Motor Co. Fund and employees are giving $50,000 to the American Red Cross as part of Ford's participation in the 2012 Red Cross Disaster Responder Program.
OnStar was in crisis mode throughout the storm to aid subscribers battling spotty cellular service and tricky driving conditions.
In one instance, the service provided rescue assistance to a family stuck in flood waters in Union Beach, N.J. In another tense moment, a subscriber was able to summon help for a heart attack victim through OnStar, McCarron said.
The service has been useful for reconnecting people with family and helping those trying to get around road closures.
Operators will stay on the line with drivers in case they run into any issues and need to find another route.
OnStar has been shifting the workload among its three North American call centers in Michigan, North Carolina and Canada. McCarron expects the crisis service to be available for free for another week in the hardest hit areas.
"As far I know, we didn't have to pull in any extra advisors," McCarron said.
Nissan North America is offering employee pricing and financing to help people in FEMA-designated disaster and emergency areas replace vehicles that fell victim to Sandy. The offer was launched today and ends Jan. 2.
"Unfortunately, October ended on a down note with Hurricane Sandy causing major disruption throughout the Northeast, which is our strongest performing region with more than 225 area dealers," said Al Castignetti, vice president of the Nissan Division, in a statement.
Toyota Financial Services and Lexus Financial Services also will contact financing customers in the affected areas who are or become delinquent in their payments due to the storm, to work out possible payment relief options.
Ford, Chrysler and GM each are offering $500 bonus cash programs through early January for vehicle buyers in affected locations.
Ford customers can apply the savings to most new Ford or Lincoln vehicles through Jan. 2 on leases and retail sales. The offer excludes the Mustang Shelby GT/GT 500, Mustang Boss, Focus Electric, Edge SE AWD, F-150 SVT Raptor and Taurus SE.
Chrysler's discount, also running through Jan. 2, is available on most 2012 and 2013 model year Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge, Ram and Fiat models.
GM's $500 offer is valid through Jan. 1 and available on most vehicles.
"We're trying to help people who need to replace a damaged vehicle," said a GM spokesman. "Often, these types of offers will be used to pay deductibles if they are not waived by the insurance company."
Diana Kurylko, Mike Colias and Jesse Snyder contributed to this report
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