Nearly all stores on both coastlines of Florida remained closed on Thursday in the aftermath of Ian. Sources tell Automotive News they have not heard of severe dealership damage in many cities, but there has been limited contact so far with businesses hardest hit by the storm.
Asbury Automotive Group had no injuries at any of its 24 Florida locations, nor had any facility sustained damage as of about 4 p.m. EDT Thursday. The publicly traded dealership group had tapped more than half of its Florida footprint for closure Tuesday ahead of the storm, and the remaining stores were closed Wednesday
“Most of our car inventory was moved indoors into service areas or parking garages so they were protected from the wind and debris,” spokeswoman Angela Hong wrote in an email Thursday.
Only two of Asbury stores lacked power on Thursday aftrernoon: Courtesy Toyota Brandon, in Brandon, Fla., and Coggin Deland Hyundai, in Deland, Fla.
Asbury’s stores in Fort Pierce and Tampa and its other Brandon, Fla., locations had reopened by early afternoon Thursday. Its Jacksonville, St. Augustine, Orlando and Deland facilities were still closed, “and we will reassess if they can open tomorrow,” Hong said.
“Most dealers are good,” Central Florida Auto Dealers Association CEO Evelyn Cardenas wrote in an email late Thursday afternoon. “Some flooding but not bad. Some will be back in business tomorrow.”
Ted Smith, president of the Florida Automobile Dealers Association, said that the owners he's talked to with stores on the west coast have not seen significant damage.
Douglas Jeep-Chrysler-Dodge-Ram in Venice, Fla., which sits halfway between Tampa and Fort Myers, has seen no damage. In Brandon, near Tampa Bay, a store suffered damage to its roof and surrounding fence.
"It's a miracle, though, where the storm went," Smith said. "That could have been so much more damage."
He cited Lee County, which includes Fort Myers and Cape Coral, as the hardest hit in the state, but could not confirm any details due to the difficulty of reaching dealers.
Smith had also heard of damage to a number of Gettel Automotive stores in Charlotte County, which includes Punta Gorda. The extent of said damage was not clear at time of publication.
"We're just waiting to hear what's going on in Lee County," Smith said. "That's where it appears to be the most destructive."
Ed Morse Automotive Group's four dealerships in Brandon and Tampa were spared the worst of the storm, but still experienced flooding and damage from debris, CEO Teddy Morse said. To the best of his knowledge, his staffers are doing OK, too, he said.
"We've been communicating with everybody," Morse said. "They all made it throughOK, maybe minimal damage, branches down, some trees, but nobody suffered any catastrophic losses."
Morse's dealerships closed Wednesday ahead of Ian, remain closed Thursday and are planning to reopen Friday. From past experience, Morse said he knows service inquiries are going to increase in the aftermath of the storm.
The "Tampa area got a lot of rain. There's going to be cars with flood damage and I'm sure body damage from tree branches and debris that was getting blown around," Morse said.
Another problem Morse foresees is the sale of flood-damaged vehicles in the coming weeks.
"It's worrisome that you've got dealers who may be very hungry for inventory, who may be paying way more than they should for a car that has flood damage," Morse said. "So when those two things collide right now, (there is) still a need for used vehicles and people looking to dump cars that got flooded. It could get a little hairy."