Dale is hardly alone.
"We are struggling with the evacuation right now," Wyatt Wainwright, president of the Houston Automobile Dealers Association, said in a statement posted on the National Automobile Dealers Association website. "There are large scale mandatory and voluntary evacuations going on right now. We don't know where we can go to escape. I don't know how I could drive three miles right now without getting blocked."
His association represents 175 dealerships in metro Houston.
"There's still 20 to 30 inches of rain that still has to pass through. We are not even near to the peak flooding yet," Wainwright said. "A big issue we haven't faced yet are rivers and streams that have yet to overflow. There is so much more of this to go which is the problem."
The National Automobile Dealers Association Foundation said it has mobilized its Emergency Relief Fund to assist dealership employees impacted by personal property damage caused by the storm and flooding. The NADA Foundation called on dealers and dealer association groups to donate online to its Emergency Relief Fund.
NADA spokesman Jonathan Collegio said the association is still assessing the breadth of the damage, but estimates somewhere between 30,000 and 35,000 dealership employees in the Houston area could have been affected.
“It’s unclear yet how many of them have been impacted. Some dealerships are completely underwater, while some are dry, but even with the dry ones we’re not sure how many of the dealership personnel have been affected. Some of the reports are saying that 300,000 to 500,000 homes have been flooded. So we have to assume that a large number of dealership families have been impacted,” he said.
Group 1 Automotive Inc.’s Houston headquarters and all of its 28 dealerships in the area are closed today, said Pete DeLongchamps, the company’s vice president of manufacturer relations, financial services and public affairs. He said it’s hard to say when the dealerships will reopen.
Last week, he said, stores were moving their inventory to the highest ground on their properties to prepare for Harvey. Group 1 also held conference calls with general managers to talk about its storm response.
“It’s a difficult time. Our main focus is on our associates. We have several thousand in the Houston-Beaumont area,” DeLongchamps told Automotive News. “Once we can assess the operation, then we’ll move from employee concerns to taking care of our customers. Right now, everybody is trying to stay dry and stay safe. It’s an unbelievable disaster which could unfold to be the largest disaster in U.S. history, eclipsing Katrina. This is certainly unprecedented.”
Once Harvey subsides, DeLongchamps said he expects that tens of thousands of people will “need help” with their vehicles. TV news coverage has shown vehicles submerged in water on the streets, but DeLongchamps said home garages are flooding, too. He said he has friends who’ve never had flooding issues in 20 years at their homes despite numerous storms, but that changed with Harvey.
AutoNation Inc.’s 18 stores in Houston are closed today. The stores were shuttered by Friday evening before the storm made landfall.
The company began making disaster preparations last Monday, said Chief Marketing Officer Marc Cannon.
“We have developed some expertise on these types of things because obviously, this is not the first one we’ve been through. We’ve had storms in Florida and hurricanes in other spots, so we have a plan that we mobilize,” Cannon told Automotive News.
He added, “The plan is off and running. We have people on the ground looking at the facilities and what’s happening with the facilities. The most important thing we’re doing right now is checking on our associates. We have a team making contact with associates. Finding out from those associates who are in a terrible situation what they need, and trying to assist with that.”
Gillman Automotive Group’s four Houston-area dealerships are closed Monday because employees can’t 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 gates open so tow trucks can drop off cars disabled by the flooding.”
Gillman’s Houston stores moved their inventory to higher ground before the storm hit Houston, Laperel told Automotive News.
“We’re mostly trying to make sure our employees and their families are safe and have a place to stay,” he said. “The Houston stores are dry except for a few minor leaks and we haven’t lost any vehicles so far as we know.”
Laperel said a couple of flooded-out employees are currently staying at his house.
Calls to his dealership are being routed directly to him. Laperel said he doesn’t know the status of two other Gillman stores in the southern tip Texas, south of Harvey’s landfall: Chevy store in Harlingen and Chevy-Buick-GMC in San Benito.
Gillman Automotive Group, part of Gillman Cos., has 10 stores. Gillman Cos., of Houston, ranks No. 53 on Automotive News’ list of the top 150 dealerships based in the U.S., with retail sales of 18,133 new vehicles in 2016.
Fred Salinas, dealer principal at Friendly Ford of Crosby near Houston, said his store will lose a big percentage of its new and used inventory because of water damage. He said around a foot of water had collected on the store’s lot yesterday, while another half-foot was in the store itself. The flooding has receded today, but Salinas wouldn’t rule out the possibility that the water levels could rise again.
Salinas said he has been in contact with Ford Motor Co. officials in the region who said they will assist him in any way they can.