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Harvey Puts Pressure on U.S. Auto Sales in August

by Dee-Ann Durbin
Friday Sep 1, 2017
Harvey Puts Pressure on U.S. Auto Sales in August

August was a strong month for U.S. auto sales but Hurricane Harvey is putting pressure on some of those gains.

General Motors said its sales rose 7.5 percent over last August, while Toyota's were up 7 percent and Volkswagen's rose 9 percent. All three cited strong sales of SUVs.

But not everyone got a boost. Nissan's sales dropped 13 percent and Ford's sales were down 2 percent.

Other automakers report sales later Friday.

U.S. auto sales were initially expected to increase slightly in August compared with a year ago, but analysts say lower sales in the Houston area could erase at least some of those gains. Harvey likely cut U.S. sales of new cars and trucks by 1.3 percent, or 20,000 vehicles, in August, forecasting firm LMC Automotive said. The Houston metro area is the ninth-largest vehicle market in the nation.

Until last Saturday, August was shaping up to be a strong month at the eight Bayway Auto Group dealerships that Darryl Wischnewsky owns in the Houston metro area. Then came Harvey. Almost miraculously, none of Wischnewsky's dealerships suffered any flood or other damage in the storm, but he says other dealers up and down the freeways he has driven have lost all of their inventory and their buildings have been damaged.

His group, which includes Lincoln, Chevrolet, Fiat Chrysler, Volkswagen and Volvo dealers, shut down last Saturday as the storm approached and just started reopening on Thursday. Losing the Saturday alone probably cost 60 to 70 sales, Wischnewski said.

"Just that one day in Houston, that's thousands of cars," he said. "I think it will probably affect the national numbers as well."

Now service is busy, but buyers are few as people try to recover from the massive rainfall, so the Labor Day weekend is likely to be slow.

But sales will pick up in September and October as people replace cars destroyed by floods. Black Book, a service that determines used car prices for dealerships, estimates that 500,000 to 1 million cars were total losses in the Houston area due to Harvey's rainfall. Vehicles also were damaged at around 500 dealers, the service said.

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AP Auto Writer Tom Krisher contributed from Detroit.

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