Chris Bell, finance director for Freehold Buick-GMC in central New Jersey, says Hurricane Sandy and a snowstorm a week later eventually will generate business for the F&I department and other profit centers at the dealership. But for now, he says, the emphasis is on cleanup.
He spoke with Automotive News Special Correspondent Jim Henry last week.
How did you make out in Sandy and the Nor'easter?
Right now we have a foot of snow. It's real wet, heavy snow, too. A lot of employees are without power. We lost it again yesterday for about 40 minutes.
How about in the hurricane?
The hurricane knocked part of our Buick-GMC sign down out front, our biggest one - and that scratched a couple of used cars. I live three miles away. The power was off for a week.
How about business? Are you up and running?
I just delivered a replacement car to a guy who lost two cars. ... One of my concerns is that we're going to run out of inventory because the car companies and dealerships had a lot of cars stored at the ports -- a lot of cars.
Any special bounce for F&I?
Nobody leases cars like the Northeast, and all of those leases have GAP. Between the leases that will need to be replaced and cars that are totaled that have GAP ... hopefully this will be the beginning of a crush of demand for GAP. [Guaranteed Asset Protection pays the difference between what a customer owes on his or her car and what the car is actually worth if the car is totaled or stolen.]
Other dealerships say they expect it will be a while before replacement demand kicks in.
People are still patching up. Customers are worried about buying food and getting their electricity back. Trees are down, and the power is out in a lot of places again because of the snow. …
We're doing the GM renovation with the new facade on the front, so even before all this we look like we're closed even when we're open, because of the construction. ... It's like a "perfect storm," pardon the expression. It's got to get better, right? I mean I've heard from customers who have five cars, four cars, three cars, underwater. Fleets of trucks are underwater.