Most East Coast dealers reopen, face gas rationing
Many dealerships along the battered Eastern Seaboard are coming back online, some with limited operations, though, following Hurricane Sandy more than a week ago.
Close to 100 percent of New Jersey's new-car dealerships were back up and open Monday, but about 30 percent of them were operating without electricity, Jim Appleton, president of the New Jersey Coalition of Automotive Retailers, estimated.
Late last week, nearly 70 percent of the state's dealerships were still without electricity, phones and the Internet.
About one or two dozen dealerships in the state had severe damage and are unable to service vehicles, Appleton said, but are open for sales.
Many dealerships have generators to run computer systems.
In the New York City area, including some parts of Long Island as well as Westchester and Rockland counties, only about 30 percent of dealerships remain closed this week because of power outages or severe damage, said Nick Crispe, a spokesman for the Greater New York Automobile Dealers Association.
Late last week, the association estimated about 60 percent were closed.
In New Jersey, car sales have increased since the storm as consumers begin to replace damaged or destroyed vehicles.
"Dealerships are seeing a lot of traffic, people are coming in to their stores," Appleton said.
In New York, most dealerships have not seen an increase in sales post-Sandy, Crispe said. There were not as many fallen trees that damaged cars in New York as there were in New Jersey, he said.
However, Crispe said, he expects sales to increase when new incentives begin, which the his association encouraged manufacturers to offer.
Sandy churned through an area that generates about 25 percent of U.S. auto sales. Power is coming back quickly in the most populated areas of both states.
In New Jersey, power should be restored to all urban dealerships this week, while rural areas may need to wait until Thanksgiving, Appleton said.
Dealers in both states also face a problem with gasoline rationing, which makes it difficult to deliver new vehicles to customers with full tanks.
Some manufacturers are filling up gasoline tanks before delivering vehicles to dealerships, Appleton said.
The New Jersey retailers' group plans to ask the governor to make an exception to the rationing rule so dealers can fill up new cars, while the New York group is working to provide vouchers so cars can be delivered half full or less.