After Ida’s battering, dealers pick up pieces

News

Bridgewater Chevrolet in New Jersey had roughly 200 vehicles on its lot last week when the remnants of Hurricane Ida ripped through the state. Dealer David Ferraez figures they’re all a loss.

The Bridgewater store is one of dozens of dealerships in recovery mode after Ida’s high winds and torrential rains damaged structures, caused power outages and triggered flooding from Louisiana to New York.

The rain was so extreme that the National Weather Service issued its first-ever flash flood emergencies for New York City and northeast New Jersey. Six to eight inches of rain fell across the Northeast, and the storm spawned multiple tornadoes in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Maryland, according to the weather service.

Some dealership showrooms were inundated by floodwaters that rose rapidly last week.

At Bridgewater Chevrolet, rushing water carried away furniture, printers, cabinets and even cars.

“We were certainly surprised to see the amount of water where we’re located,” said Ferraez, who owns the store with his son. “We’ve had 6- and 7-inch rains before, and never has the floodwater gotten even close to the dealership.”

The dealership had about 60 new Chevrolets, at least that many customer cars and another 70 to 80 used vehicles on the property, Ferraez told Automotive News. As far as Ferraez could tell late last week, all those cars were ruined because they sat in four to five feet of water for hours.

While the dealership was shut down late last week, Ferraez said he expected Bridgewater Chevrolet’s service department would reopen Monday, Sept. 6.

Around 100 new vehicles are expected at the store in mid-September to replenish inventory, he said.

“The good news is that I have another Chevrolet store five miles down the same road, as well as a Buick-GMC store,” he said. “So we’ll be able to take care of our customers” in the meantime.

Flash flooding and floating debris also damaged the showroom and vehicles at Lexus of Bridgewater, located next door to the Chevrolet store. An official at the dealership declined to comment, but pictures posted on social media by an employee showed cars that had been swept into each other or off the lot and into nearby trees.

Flooding in front of the dealership was so intense that the waters overwhelmed vehicles driving by.

Patch.com reported that one driver, Malathi Kanche, who was bringing her daughter home from Rutgers University, went missing in front of the dealership the night of Wednesday, Sept. 1, trying to escape her flooded vehicle.

Her daughter was able to swim to the dealership and be rescued, according to the report, but Kanche didn’t know how to swim and was last seen near the Lexus store. She was still missing as of Friday afternoon.

The heads of dealer associations in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Louisiana told Automotive News they’ve been in contact with dealers about storm recovery efforts.

New Jersey dealerships, in particular, were hit hard by unprecedented flooding, said Jim Appleton, president of the New Jersey Coalition of Automotive Retailers. He estimated at least 10 to 15 dealerships in the state would experience significant losses. One dealer told Appleton he lost up to 150 vehicles.

“In some cases, even the locations dealers were moving cars to, which [were] presumed to be high and dry, were neither high enough nor dry enough to prevent a loss,” Appleton said.

A Tesla store in Paramus, N.J., experienced major structural damage and was deemed a “total loss” by Paramus Mayor Richard LaBarbiera, The Record reported.

New York dealerships seemed to fare slightly better. Mark Schienberg, president of the Greater New York Automobile Dealers Association, said he hadn’t learned of stores with infrastructure so damaged that they couldn’t operate. But dealerships did experience flooding — in some instances, records in store basements were destroyed, Schienberg said.

“If there’s a silver lining to this weirdness, it’s that while there’s been damage of some vehicles in dealerships, there’s not a lot of cars out there,” Schienberg said. “So those numbers are not so significant as [they were] during Hurricane Sandy” in 2012.

John Devlin, president of the Pennsylvania Automotive Association, said he would know the extent of damage to dealerships in the eastern part of his state by the middle of this week.

“Mother Nature is hitting us hard,” Devlin said. “I know a lot of other states are getting it worse, but in the last 30 to 40 days, we’ve taken a number of hits.”

In the South, the swath of Louisiana struck by Ida in its Category 4 form has a long road to recovery. Cellular service was spotty, and hundreds of thousands of people were still without electricity or running water late last week, Louisiana Automobile Dealers Association President Will Green said.

Many dealerships and thousands of their employees were affected, he said. Green, who traveled last week to an area outside New Orleans to volunteer, called the devastation widespread. “There were several dealerships in that area that were severely impacted and homes that were without roofs, some moderate flooding, fallen trees, downed power lines,” he said.

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