Dale is hardly alone.
“We are currently grappling with the evacuation,” said Wyatt Wainwright, president of the Houston Automobile Dealers Association, in a statement posted on the National Automobile Dealers Association website. “There are large-scale compulsory and voluntary evacuations going on right now. We don’t know where to go to escape. I don’t know how I could travel five kilometers right now without being stranded.”
His association represents 175 dealers in the Houston metro.
“There’s still 20 to 30 inches of rain yet to come through. We’re not even near flood peak yet,” Wainwright said. “A big problem that we haven’t faced yet are the rivers and streams that haven’t yet overflowed. There is so much more to do which is the problem.”
The National Automobile Dealers Association Foundation said it has mobilized its Emergency relief fund to help dealership employees affected by storm and flood property damage. The NADA Foundation called on dealers and dealer associations to donate online to its emergency relief fund.
NADA spokesman Jonathan Collegio said the association is still assessing the extent of the damage, but estimates that between 30,000 and 35,000 employees at Houston-area dealers could have been affected.
“We do not yet know how many of them have been affected. Some dealerships are completely underwater while others are dry, but even with the driest we don’t know how many dealership staff were affected. Some reports indicate that 300,000 to 500,000 houses were flooded. So we have to assume that a large number of dealer families have been affected, ”he said.
Group 1 Automotive Inc.’s head office in Houston and all of its 28 dealerships in the region are closed today, said Pete DeLongchamps, vice president of manufacturer relations, financial services and public affairs at the society. He said it’s hard to say when the dealerships will reopen.
Last week, he said, stores were moving their inventory to the uppermost lot of their properties to prepare for Harvey. Group 1 also held conference calls with CEOs to discuss their response to the storm.
“It’s a difficult time. Our main focus is our associates. We have several thousand in the Houston-Beaumont area, ”DeLongchamps told Automotive News. “Once we can assess the operation, we will move from employee concerns to caring for our customers. Right now everyone is trying to stay dry and stay safe. It’s an incredible catastrophe that could turn out to be the greatest catastrophe in US history, eclipsing Katrina. It is certainly unprecedented. “
Once Harvey calms down, DeLongchamps said he expects tens of thousands of people to “need help” with their vehicles. TV media coverage showed vehicles submerged in water on the streets, but DeLongchamps said domestic garages were also flooded. He said he had friends who had never had problems with flooding in 20 years at home despite numerous storms, but that changed with Harvey.
All 18 AutoNation Inc. stores in Houston are closed today. Stores were closed Friday night before the storm hit land.
The company began preparing for disasters last Monday, said Marc Cannon, chief marketing officer.
“We have developed a certain expertise on this kind of thing because obviously this is not the first that we are going through. We’ve had storms in Florida and hurricanes in other places, so we have a plan that we are mobilizing, ”Cannon told Automotive News.
He added: “The plan is underway. We have people on the ground looking at the facilities and what’s going on with the facilities. The most important thing we are doing right now is checking our associates. We have a team that makes contact with the associates. Find out from those associates who are in dire straits what they need and try to help them. “
Gillman Automotive Group’s four dealerships in the Houston area are closed Monday because employees cannot get to work, said Dana Laperel, sales manager for Gillman Honda Houston.
“We hope to be open tomorrow,” he said, reached by cell phone at his home. “Right now we just have our doors open so tow trucks can drop off cars disabled by flooding.”
Gillman’s stores in Houston moved their inventory to higher ground before the storm hit Houston, Laperel said Automotive News.
“We mainly try to make sure that our employees and their families are safe and have a place to stay,” he said. “Houston stores are dry except for a few minor leaks and we have not lost any vehicles to our knowledge.”
Laperel said a few flooded employees are currently staying at his home.
Calls to his dealer are routed directly to him. Laperel said he was unaware of the status of two other Gillman stores in the southern tip of Texas, south of Harvey’s Landing: the Chevy store in Harlingen and the Chevy-Buick-GMC in San Benito.
Gillman Automotive Group, which is part of Gillman Cos., Has 10 stores. Gillman Cos., Of Houston, ranks 53rd on Automotive News’ list of the top 150 U.S.-based dealers, with retail sales of 18,133 new vehicles in 2016.
Fred Salinas, primary dealership at Friendly Ford of Crosby near Houston, said his store would lose a large percentage of its new and used inventory due to water damage. He said about a foot of water had accumulated on the store grounds yesterday, while another half foot was in the store itself. Flooding has subsided today, but Salinas does not rule out the possibility that water levels will rise again.
Salinas said he had been in contact with officials from Ford Motor Co. in the area who said they would help him in any way they could.