Hurricane Sandy, the largest tropical storm the Atlantic has ever seen, hit southern New Jersey Monday evening, affecting sales and damaging inventory at dealerships there, as well as other East Coast states.
Nearly 8 million electric customers in 15 states and Washington, D.C., were without power today and the storm's death toll reached 29, CNN reported.
Up to 800 Ford Motor Co. dealerships are affected by the storm, Ford CFO Bob Shanks told Bloomberg today.
Those dealerships are closed for today and tomorrow, and Ford is not sure when they will all be up and running, he said.
"Clearly this is going to have an impact on industry sales towards the end of the month and maybe early November" Shanks said. "But all of our plants and our suppliers fortunately are continuing to operate as normal."
In central New Jersey, the DCH Auto Group was dealing with the mess today.
The dealership group has nine stores that remain closed and could be severely damaged because they were located in the counties declared disaster areas, said Roy Bavaro, director of corporate marketing at DCH Auto Group in South Amboy, N.J.
DCH Auto Group owns 29 dealerships in the United States, 14 on the West Coast and 15 on the East Coast, Bavaro said. The group's headquarters is without power after a backup generator went down.
"Once it's safe to travel, we'll have managers travel to our dealerships to assess our damage," Bavaro said. "It's still a state of emergency, and officials are asking that all nonessential vehicles remain off the roads."
The DCH dealerships affected sell Toyota, Honda, Nissan, BMW, Audi and Acura brands with inventory worth "several millions" of dollars on the ground, Bavaro said.
"Most of the inventory is kept outside," Barvaro said. "There are some that stayed inside showrooms and some inside garages. When we expect bad storms, we move as much of the inventory indoors as we can, but I'm not sure how much was able to be moved this time. There is very limited space."
Better luck inland
In areas more sheltered from the storm, some dealers are feeling fortunate today.
In Falls Church, Va., International Motors is closed for the day, but the store and inventory are undamaged, said owner Kurt Schirm. The store was a Saab dealership, but is now a parts and service shop for the defunct brand. Schirm said he plans to sell the property and relocate to an area where he can get a new franchise.
"Our store is fine. We have power, and there's no physical damage,"
Schirm said. "But there is a lot of flooding in the area and a lot of trees down. The area is disrupted. Government's closed, school is closed and almost all the businesses are closed because there is a scattered level of damage."
In southern New Jersey, Holman Automotive Group opened its seven stores at noon today, said Bill Cariss, vice president of dealership operations for the group in Maple Shade, N.J.
None of Holman's dealerships lost power and while some roads are impassible, the main roads are open, Cariss said. His managers are assessing store and inventory damage, but the preliminary indications show, "we got really lucky," Cariss said. The dealerships had about $60 million worth of vehicle inventory on their lots when Sandy struck.
"Right now it looks pretty good," Cariss said. "We feel we really dodged a bullet and we're ready to close out the month. There'll be a ton of insurance work and flood damaged reports and so on. But we were very, very lucky."