Hurricane Irene: Impact on the automotive industry image

Barely a hurricane Sunday but massive and packed with rain, Irene flooded towns, killed at least eight people and knocked out power to more than 2 million homes and businesses.

Almost all auto dealers from Georgia to New England hustled Friday to find shelter for their cars and trucks, but industry experts predicted Hurricane Irene will damage late August sales even if inventories escape unscathed.

Last time, fourth-quarter of AutoNation’s net profit was cut in half from a year ago as Hurricane Wilma battered its Florida operations at an already-challenging time for the broader retail business of selling cars. The company said its earnings for the latest quarter were reduced by 4 cents a share due to hurricane damage.

This time, AutoNation has only eight dealerships in Irene’s path, mostly in Virginia and Maryland, said spokesman Marc Cannon.

Moving to the automotive industry sector, the impact should be minimal because only two automotive facilities are near the Hurricane Irene path: BMW’s Greer, S.C and General Motors’ transmission plant in White Marsh, Md., near Baltimore.

According to GM spokeswoman Mary Ann Brown, GM’s White Marsh plant is on four 10-hour days so there is no production on Fridays, nor on the weekend.

As about BMW operations in Greer there are no comments yet. According to BMW Chairman Norbert Reithofer, the first half of 2011 was the best six-month period in the group’s history. He says the company had difficulties meeting demands for its X3 sports activity vehicles. The cars are produced in Greer.

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