Some Houston-area auto dealerships are hoping to begin the process of reopening Wednesday despite still rising floodwaters due to Hurricane-turned Tropical Storm Harvey.
Tuesday, the National Weather Service reported that Harvey has now shattered the rainfall record for a tropical system in the lower 48 — raining down nearly 50 inches with more on the way.
“The damage is still being done as we speak. Water is continuing to rise,” said Mike Shaw, General Manager of Group 1 Automotive and Advantage BMW Mid Town.
“Right now this event is still occurring,” said Roshelle Salinas with the Houston Automobile Dealers Association. “Cars can be replaced afterwards but we’re just making sure that our dealerships and employees are safe.”
Some Dealers Hope To Reopen Wednesday
While the full impact of the devastation won’t be known for days if not weeks, it’s clear thousands of vehicles have been flooded. The Car Pro Certified Dealers we spoke with Tuesday say they hope to reopen at least partially with skeleton crews on Wednesday to help address the transportation crisis in the region.
“We are going to get to work tomorrow and everybody put eyes on their dealerships and we’ll all get together and assess a game plan and go from there and do what we need to do to help get out cars to the public because they are going to need transportation,” said Shaw. “If we have employees that can very easily get to store and help and they can accept flood cars and they can help repair cars and they can offer some advice and we can give out loaners, then great, I would never, nor would our company ever ask our employees to put themselves in danger.”
It’s going to take a lot of cleanup effort on the dealer’s parts, some of which have lost their entire inventories. Gay Buick GMC, a Car Pro Certified Dealer in Dickinson, TX, is located in one of the hardest hit areas.
“This happened so quick. We, of course, lost pretty much every vehicle on the lot which between the two stores and customers service vehicles is probably in the neighborhood of 600 plus,” said Kevin Lardie, General Manager of Gay Buick GMC and Kia.
Floodwaters weren’t the only threat, either. Monday, a fire broke out in one of the dealership’s service buildings.
“We had several feet of water in all of the service buildings and apparently an electrical vehicle short happened to one of the vehicles in the building,” said Lardie.
The fire was contained to just the one building thanks to firefighter efforts. A firefighter captured the scene and posted this video to Facebook.
Lardie is hopeful cleanup can begin tomorrow.
“I’ve assessed the damage and looks like hopefully tomorrow we can get in there and start doing some cleanup and especially from the sales-end we should be able to get back up and running within a couple days,” said Lardie.
The same is true for Fred Haas Toyota which escaped the floodwaters along with Advantage BMW Midtown.
“We are closed down today with full expectations of being open tomorrow to be able to service vehicles and sell cars to people who need them,” Nate Murphy, General Manager of Fred Haas Toyota. “Hopefully we can just service Houston as best as possible but it’s going to be tricky because there is a lot of damage.”
“Our dealerships, as soon as they are able to operate and provide any sort of recovery assistance they’ll be doing so,” said RoShelle Salinas, Public Relations Director for the Houston Automobile Dealers Association.
Dealers say it will take help from manufacturers to help get them back on their feet.
“We’ve already got some inventory in the pipeline that the manufacturers are getting to us,” said Lardie. “Hopefully we can be helping customers within the week.”
While it is early yet, dealers we spoke to estimate the number of flooded vehicles in the tens of thousands. It amounts to a catastrophic transportation crisis.
“I could imagine it’s going to be thousands and thousands and thousands of flooded cars. I don’t even know how to put it in words. It’s going to be amazing. If you could be down here and see what we’re seeing, ” said Murphy.
“A lot of people are going to need transportation here soon. I am sure tens of thousands of cars have been damaged or completed totaled,” said Shaw.
“We have stopped any plans at wholesaling any of our used cars that are safe to sell because the city of Houston is going to need transportation,” said Shaw. “Unfortunately, this is going to be a huge deal for the auto business to supply cars for the city of Houston again.”
It will be some time before we learn the full scope of vehicle losses. But one thing is certain. Transportation will be an issue in Houston for some time to come.
“We don’t have a really good transportation system with busing or rail. So everybody in Houston owns it seems like anyway owns a car or two or three. So this is a big deal, ” said Shaw. “We just don’t have the infrastructure in Houston to be able to move people from home to work and back home again every day other than our highways and freeways.”
Meanwhile, the National Automobile Dealers Association Foundation has mobilized its Emergency Relief Fund to assist Houston area auto dealership employees impacted by the historic storm. Click here for more information.
Photo Credit: AMFPhotography/ Shutterstock.com