Florida car dealerships were severely damaged by Hurricane Michael but the amount of damage is impossible to determine at this point, Florida Automobile Dealers Association (FADA) President Ted Smith said.
“The Panama City area is the most devastated regarding dealerships,” Smith said in an interview with Mega Dealer News. “There was a notice of a dealership employee who unfortunately lost his life in the Quincy area.”
Fallen trees and structural damage to some dealerships in the Panama City area have left many unable to work and Smith has been unable to contact some of his dealers, he said.
“One of our largest concerns is for the employees because buildings can be repaired,” Smith said. “I don’t really even have a handle on how many employees have been able to return to work. There’s really no returning to buildings at this point because dealerships are going to have to bring in temporary facilities. They will have to have generators and small mobile office buildings for some of these stores.”
Panama dealerships are focused on becoming operational again so they can provide customers with much-needed repairs or new vehicles, Smith said.
“Obviously, customer’s cars have been damaged severely, so people will need service work and they will need to buy new cars,” Smith said. “Unfortunately, dealers have had a great deal of damage to their inventory that they had sitting on the lots.”
Smith said there is no way to protect all of the cars on the lots during a storm like Hurricane Michael.
“We had tiles come off of the roof of a dealership and striking new cars,” Smith said. “We’re going to have dealerships that will have problems because they’ve had a lot of damaged inventory. They will have issues with not having enough new cars to sale. They’ll have used cars that they’ll have to give damage notifications to their customers. It’s going to be a longterm dig-out.”
Smith said the damage from Hurricane Michael reminded him of Hurricane Charley in 2004, which was also a Category 4 storm with wind speeds up to 149 mph. Charley caused $14.6 billion of damage in the Florida peninsula alone.
“Stores were completely closed and they operated out of modular buildings [when they returned],” he said.
Rescue efforts and humanitarian efforts are significant and people are turning out to help, Smith said.
“There’s food and water available but none of that translates into business for dealerships, so there’s millions of dollars of lost revenue,” he said. “There’s just no way around it. It’s longterm. I don’t know that anyone could put a number on it.”