Houston Auto Industry Has Big Job Ahead

hurricane harvey flooding auto industry

Many Houston area auto dealerships are back open in some form as of Thursday after being closed for days due to Hurricane Harvey’s catastrophic flooding.

There is no doubt they’ll play a critical role in providing transportation to drivers now without vehicles due to flood damage, either by selling new or used cars or providing service to flood-damaged vehicles that aren’t considered salvage vehicles.

Dealerships Damaged

The Houston Automobile Dealers Association, which has 175 members, estimates fewer than 25-percent of metro-area auto dealerships received damage.  The number that is much better than expected.

“It is turning out better than it could have because of the positions of our various dealerships around town,” said RoShelle Salinas, Public Relations Director for the Houston Automobile Dealers Association. “People are walking in very grateful that they didn’t receive more damage than definitely could have happened.”

The association says many of its dealerships were open as of this morning operating regular hours, some with limited staff.

Mercedes-Benz of Sugar Land, a Car Pro Certified Dealer, was one dealership able to move its entire inventory to higher ground.

“They were proactive in moving all of their inventory to their fourth-floor parking garage. So they didn’t lose anything at all,” said Salinas.

Other dealerships weren’t so lucky. Gay GMC Buick in Dickinson, an area hit hard by the flooding, says it lost 600 plus vehicles on both of its lots.

“Ninety percent of vehicles flooded, all of our inventory is flooded.  I mean just utter devastation,” said Kevin Lardie, General Manager of Gay GMC Buick and Kia.

More Inventory on the Way

Flooded dealerships with major losses are especially in need of inventory. Auto manufacturers are on the way with arrivals of new replacement vehicles.

“I know manufacturers are already talking with people and getting inventory on the way here and offering special incentives so that people can afford new cars,” said Salinas.

“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.”

Dealers are in need of more inventory for an expected sales increase when drivers are financially able to buy new cars again.

“This is probably a two-week hit to sales so financially there are going to be some constraints there,” said Salinas. “But what will come back from new cars sales and used cars after people get their insurance checks and are in need of a new vehicle that might pick us back up again.”

Some dealers also have plans to bring in used cars from other areas.

“Group 1 Automotive is planning on bringing in pre-owned cars from other areas around the country specifically to have available for Houstonians and Texans around the area,” said Mike Shaw, General Manager of Advantage BMW Midtown.

Flood-Damaged Vehicles

At times like these, dealership service departments play a critical role in some repairs.

“I recall from past flooding incidents the service departments definitely played a big role in their customers. If it was just replacing the seats and carpeting and upholstery then they were able to do that and help keep people on the road,” said Salinas.

While the number of flood-damaged vehicles is not known yet, it’s expected to be immense. Many of those vehicles will be deluging the market and consumers should be confident they are buying from a reputable dealer before buying a used car.

“We always remind people to be wary of where you are buying a used vehicle from. Our new car dealerships with used or pre-owned lots are definitely more reputable. They have higher standards they have to abide for manufacturers and be sure of getting that Carfax report and asking for a full inspection before purchasing a used car, ” said Salinas.

“Be very careful over the weeks and months to come about people selling cars that have been previously flooded. The things that could happen to a car when it’s been underwater will last forever, ” said Shaw. “There are so many electronics and so many computerized components of these cars. It’s not like it’s an old 1975 GM product. This is a car that is filled with more on board computers than the first space shuttle had. So buy from reputable dealers buy from places that will present the carfax that has a good history of it.”

For a list of Car Pro Certified Dealers open for business and our advice on what to do if you have a flooded vehicle, click here.

For our list of tips on how to identify and avoid buying a flood-damaged vehicle click here.

Photo Editorial Credit: michelmond/Shutterstock.com


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