Group 1’s Houston-area stores reopen

on Aug31

The showroom at Group 1’s Munday Mazda store on the north side of Houston, before Hurricane Harvey slammed into Texas. Many Group 1 stores in the Houston area have reopened following the storm. Photo credit: MUNDY MAZDA

UPDATED: 8/30/17 5:26 pm ET – adds details on AutoNation

Dealerships in the Houston area are beginning to reopen after Hurricane Harvey, led by all but two of Group 1 Automotive Inc.’s 28 stores there on Wednesday.

Group 1 reopened 26 of its stores in the Houston area on Wednesday morning as the company begins to “pick up the pieces” in the storm’s aftermath, said Pete DeLongchamps, vice president of manufacturer relations, financial services and public affairs.

While one of its stores near a bayou in Clear Lake lost some inventory, he said most vehicles at Group 1 dealerships remained intact. DeLongchamps attributed that to the hard work stores put in last week to move inventory to higher ground on their properties before the storm made landfall. Without those efforts, he said, hundreds of vehicles would have been under water.

DeLongchamps said Group 1 had a disaster plan in place to cope with the hurricane.

“This is shaping up to be the largest natural disaster in U.S. history, and no one would’ve thought that a week ago,” DeLongchamps told Automotive News. “From a dealership standpoint, I’d say that we feel like we’re very fortunate based on everything that is happening around the city.”

Group 1’s headquarters reopened Tuesday following Hurricane Harvey. Photo credit: DAVE VERSICAL

HQ open

Group 1’s Houston headquarters, which reopened Tuesday, was undamaged. The nation’s third-largest dealership group had a skeleton crew there handling company business on Wednesday, while others worked from home.

Flooding has made Houston’s streets unpredictable. While DeLongchamps said the area around Group 1’s headquarters is dry, there is flooding just three miles away that he described as a “lake.”

The company is beginning to turn its attention to helping consumers get back into vehicles. DeLongchamps said the dealership group wants to help consumers, such as the leader of a local charity in Houston who lost her three vehicles in the storm and is now displaced, replace their vehicles as soon as possible.

“We’ve been through this before. We had our preparations and plans. It’s all going very well,” he said. “The focus now is making sure we can begin taking care of all of our customers’ needs. There are a lot of people that literally have no transportation.”

AutoNation, others

AutoNation said late Wednesday that its 18 stores and seven collision centers in Houston will reopen Thursday morning.

“We’ve done an assessment of the stores. They are able to be opened and will be up and running,” Marc Cannon, chief marketing officer for AutoNation, told Automotive News. “Those who can get to work, will be back at work. Those who can’t be back to work, we will continue to pay them. We’ll continue supporting our associates who have lost their homes and continue to help them in this time of need.”

AutoNation ranks No. 1 on Automotive News’ list of the top 150 dealership groups based in the U.S., with retail sales of 337,622 new vehicles in 2016. Group 1 ranks No. 3, with retail sales of 172,053 new vehicles in 2016.

Two stores in Houston owned by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Automotive also reopened Wednesday. Joe Myers Ford and Joe Myers Toyota were undamaged, with inventory intact.

CarMax Inc.’s six stores in Houston remain closed. “It’s too early to tell the potential impact and when the stores will be reopened,” spokeswoman Claire Hunter told Automotive News in an email. The nation’s largest used-car retailer said it has more than 175 stores in the U.S. that will “support the future inventory needs of our Houston stores.”

Jamie LaReau contributed to this report.

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