Thanks to ample inventories, the tornado that struck General Motors' assembly plant in Oklahoma City on May 8 was not a complete disaster.
In fact, some Chevrolet and GMC dealers consider it a blessing in disguise.
They have healthy supplies of the SUVs assembled at the plant already on their lots. GM is continuing rebates for those seven-passenger vehicles, the Chevrolet TrailBlazer EXT and GMC Envoy XL.
"The bad news was that a tornado hit the plant; the good news was that nobody was seriously hurt; the great news is they have to stop building for a while," says Todd Skelton, executive general manager of Maroone Chevrolet in Greenacres, Fla.
GM plans to restore full production at the plant on June 30, spokesman Dan Flores says.
Dealership manager Skelton has a 150-day supply of TrailBlazer EXTs. The supply for all TrailBlazers, including the extended version, was 106 on May 1, according to the Automotive News Data Center. A 60-day supply is considered typical.
Ed Levy of Golling Pontiac-GMC in Lake Orion, Mich., is in a tighter situation with the Envoy XL with a 75-day supply. The supply for all Envoys, including the extended version, was 124 days on May 1.
"If we don't have the pipeline refilled by mid-July, I think we'll have a concern," Levy says.
GM typically distributes vehicles to dealers within three weeks of building them, he says, so dealers should be OK.
The tornado damaged the plant's powerhouse, paint shop and body shop. Rain soaked electrical components in production equipment. Work crews have pumped 2.1 million gallons of water out of the paint shop. They are using 300,000 watts of stadium lighting to work around the clock.
GM has a safety valve if supplies of the SUVs suddenly diminish. It can assemble the extended-version SUVs at its Moraine, Ohio, plant, which assembles the five-passenger versions, Flores says, but no decision has been made.
The company continues to offer a $3,000 cash rebate or 0 percent financing on 2003 model SUVs.
Tony Castriota of Castriota Chevrolet Inc. in Pittsburgh says he's sitting on a 75-day supply of TrailBlazer EXTs.
"I don't think it's a problem, but depending on how long we're down, we may lose that business to Ford Explorer or Dodge Durango," he says. "But if it's a GM person, they'll sit and wait on it."