AutoNation began preparing for Irma on Tuesday as it dealt with the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey in Houston.
The dealership group's Houston stores are all open now, even though Jackson estimated that 5-6 percent of the company's inventory in the area was a total loss.
But he added, "We have 50 associates who absolutely lost everything. They all were able to find shelter with friends, neighbors, family. They will have a long hard road rebuilding, and they will get the most support from us to begin the journey of rebuilding their lives. And then we have another group of 200 that have been seriously impacted on different levels."
AutoNation ranks No. 1 on Automotive News' list of the top 150 dealership groups based in the U.S., with retail sales of 337,622 new vehicles in 2016.
On Thursday, JM Family Enterprises Inc., of Deerfield Beach, Fla., was also taking precautions. It owns JM Lexus in Margate, Fla., and Southeast Toyota Distributors, which has facilities in Jacksonville, Fla., and Commerce, Ga.
The company said JM Lexus, which has around 300 employees, will be closed Friday through Sunday. It’s the top Lexus store in the country, selling nearly 8,000 vehicles in 2016. The store had a skeleton crew in place Thursday.
Southeast Toyota distributes Toyota vehicles to dealerships in Florida, Georgia, Alabama and the Carolinas. In 2016, the company said, Toyota dealers in those five states sold 472,596 new Toyotas, including 118,548 fleet deliveries.
Southeast Toyota is halting deliveries in three districts, which cover the middle of the state around Orlando and down both coasts, said Christie Caliendo, a JM Family spokeswoman.
The distributor’s vehicle processing and parts warehouse in Jacksonville will be closed Friday through Monday. If things take a turn for the worse, it’s possible that vehicles could be transported to a safer location. When Hurricane Matthew came through last year, Caliendo said, Southeast Toyota moved inventory from Jacksonville to an inland processing facility that’s about 40 miles west of the port there.
She said JM Family isn’t taking any chances.
“I’ve been here 10 years. This is the first time [our headquarters] closed for several days,” she told Automotive News. “This is also a bigger hurricane than we’ve seen in a long time.”
At Warren Henry Auto Group in Miami, General Manager Larry Zinn said his team has already shut down and locked up over the last few days.
"We have stores in Key West," he told Automotive News TV. "So we were thankfully able to move over 100 cars out of Key West further north to some higher ground to one of our other locations. The stores that need shutters are all shuttered up."
Manheim is closing several locations due to the storm.
Auction sites in Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, Palm Beach and Lakeland will close tomorrow. The Manheim Caribbean site in Puerto Rico, which is already being hit by Irma, is closed until further notice.
A company spokeswoman said Manheim is proactively communicating with its clients about the status of its operations and their vehicles, and “is helping to direct them to other Manheim digital channels for their vehicle needs.”
“During severe weather conditions such as Hurricane Irma, Manheim proactively plans and prepares to protect the safety of our team members, clients and locations,” the company said in a statement. “This includes encouraging clients to retrieve their purchased vehicles at our locations prior to Friday to avoid any possible damage and moving physical sales to digital channels such as OVE for safety reasons.”
Vince Bond Jr. and Tom Worobec contributed to this report.