Harvey's impact sent new U.S. light-vehicle sales down 1.8 percent in August. But industry experts see the disaster becoming a short-term positive for the industry, with the Detroit 3 poised to gain the most.
Disruptions from the rain and flooding along the Gulf Coast resulted in an estimated 25,000 to 30,000 lost sales in August, analysts said. That volume is expected to be made up by year end with an influx of owners of damaged vehicles heading to area dealerships for replacements.
"Harvey will be net positive," said Jonathan Smoke, chief economist at Cox Automotive, who confirmed the company's 17.1 million vehicle sales forecast for 2017. "We expect the recovery in vehicle sales to be quick."
Before the storm came ashore as a Category 4 hurricane late on Aug. 25, sales were forecast to rise about 1 percent, for the first gain of 2017.
The seasonally adjusted annual rate of sales last month was 16.13 million — the lowest figure since February 2014's 15.57 million.
Chris Hopson, forecast analyst at IHS Markit, expects the short-term sales disruption to begin to be offset roughly 60 to 90 days after the event — or once insurance checks arrive.
The Houston area, according to IHS Markit, was the 10th-largest auto market in the U.S. through June, with a 2.2 percent share of total U.S. light-vehicle registrations and 3.3 percent of total U.S. registrations of nonluxury full-size pickups.
As makers of the most popular pickups, the Detroit 3 are poised for the biggest gains from post-Harvey vehicle shoppers, analysts said.
Toyota Motor Sales and General Motors posted strong sales gains last month, up 6.8 percent and 7.5 percent, respectively. August sales dropped at Ford Motor Co., Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Nissan North America and American Honda Motor Co.