The effects of hurricanes both this year and in 2017 were felt by some public retailers who reported earnings results last week.
Hurricanes Florence and Michael this year caused damage and closings at some dealerships, while Irma and Harvey, which hit the U.S. last August and September, set up a tough comparison for new-vehicle sales in the 2018 third quarter.
Group 1 Automotive Inc. said its third-quarter new-vehicle sales were down substantially because of that comparison. Harvey, which wreaked havoc in Group 1's home base of Houston, is estimated to have damaged or destroyed up to 600,000 vehicles, causing hundreds of thousands of customers to seek replacements.
Against those Harvey-boosted numbers a year ago, Group 1's total new vehicle sales in the U.S. fell 9 percent to 32,058 units in the third quarter.
This month Michael impacted two of Group 1's stores in Panama City, Fla. Group 1 CEO Earl Hesterberg said inventory suffered only minor damage, and the company does not expect a material impact on fourth-quarter results. But local employees were hit hard. "The vast majority of our 53 local employees suffered property losses, and some lost everything," Hesterberg said, adding that the company is taking steps to assist affected employees.
Sonic Automotive Inc. had a $1.2 million charge in the third quarter this year, described by President Jeff Dyke as "truing up accruals for Irma and Harvey last year." This year's hurricanes were a non-event for Sonic with no damages suffered, Dyke said.
"We were pleased with our performance during the quarter, which faced fairly tough comps due to the rebound effects of Hurricane Harvey in the prior-year quarterly results," Dyke said.
Sonic's revenues declined 1.7 percent on a same-store basis because of that tough comparison, CEO David Smith said in a statement last week.
At Asbury Automotive Group Inc., the company's emergency readiness programs and luck prevented property damage to its stores in the region affected by Florence, CFO Sean Goodman said.
While Asbury's stores in North Carolina experienced four days of affected sales and stores in Virgina experienced two days, there was no material effect on the retailer's results for the quarter, Goodman said.
Irma and Harvey last year affected Asbury considerably more. "It was around 1,000 cars that we missed out on selling," Goodman said.
At Lithia Motors Inc., while a couple of stores in Corpus Christi, Texas, were affected a year ago by Harvey, it led to no material effect on the retailer's business in the third quarter, CEO Bryan DeBoer said. Lithia does not have locations where other retailers such as Asbury experienced hurricane activity this year.
Penske Automotive Group Inc. of suburban Detroit reported nothing major on the hurricane front. "We don't report it unless it would be catastrophic," CEO Roger Penske said.
AutoNation Inc. reports its third-quarter results on Tuesday, Oct. 30.
Melissa Burden and David Muller contributed to this report.