The aftermath of Hurricane Ida: NJ Car Pres. Jim Appleton talks recovery efforts

"We have a rough 12 months ahead of us", says Jim Appleton

It has been some time since Hurricane Ida bombarded the Gulfcoast and Northeast with severe flooding. According to Carfax, 212,000 vehicles were potentially damaged by the storm. On today’s show, we’re pleased to welcome the President of New Jersey Coalition of Automotive Retailers (NJ Car), Jim Appleton, to give us a glance at recovery efforts still happening in his state and we’ll also get into the coalition’s agenda as we enter the final quarter of 2021.

The hits just keep coming, says Appleton. They are climbing their way back from the slump of 2020 while dealing with inventory and chip shortages. Appleton says Hurricane Ida hit the state hard. It’s the loss of motorist vehicles that was devastating in multiple areas of the state. He says the dealers are struggling and trying to source replacement vehicles for those consumers.

One of the biggest priorities for them is trying to get working men and women back up and operational. It’s helping to put people’s lives back together. This is what car dealers do, says Appleton. Motor vehicles are an essential need for people in the state and dealers are working overtime to try and find products to suit consumers’ needs. The used car inventory is light because sales have been somewhat depressed and the availability to trade vehicles isn’t there also. It’s a perfect storm situation, says Appleton.

Related: Chairwoman Annette Sykora discusses NADA’s Emergency Relief Fund to help dealers in need

Out of 510 rooftops, Appleton says 15 were seriously affected. He says this wasn’t a typical flooding situation. They were flash floods with different water patterns. Facilities that had never been flooded before were flooded. Out of the 15 dealerships that were seriously affected, 3 or 4 dealerships aren’t operational right now. The rest are back open.

In New Jersey, dealers are talking about 10% or less of the usual inventory. For the last several months, Appleton says, it’s no secret, business has been great.  Inventory has been low but gross profits, as a result, have been high. Inventory that’s at a 10% or 15% level is difficult for dealers to make a profit in that environment. He says we have a rough 12 months ahead of us.


They continue in New Jersey to focus on electric vehicle transformation. Appleton says he probably spends 80% of his time on an issue that represents less than 4% of the market in New Jersey. All of the OEMs have announced significant plans to transform products to electric vehicle platforms and the dealers are all in for that. Appleton says their goal is to make sure public policymakers recognize the value of the franchise system as the most effective way to bring these new vehicles to market. He says they want to prepare dealers to meet the challenge. It’s government regulation that is what’s pushing the marketplace. Appleton says, he doesn’t think we’re going to see it reverse anytime soon.

You can help dealership employees impacted by Hurricane Ida or request relief assistance by visiting the NADA Foundation Emergency Relief Fund.

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