Dealers collect what's left following Hurricane Michael

Photos shared from the John Lee dealerships show major damage — including insulation, piping and pieces of roofing material — all over the inside of his Mazda dealership. Photo credit: JOHN LEE MAZDA

In an unrecognizable landscape of devastation and destruction left in Hurricane Michael’s path, dealerships in Florida and Georgia continue to collect what remains underneath the wreckage caused by the Category 4 storm.

Five days after the storm packed maximum sustained winds of 155 mph, several dealerships in the Panhandle of Florida and in Georgia remained closed, some suffering significant damage. Nissan, Ford and Honda reported at least some of their dealerships across the two states are without power. Some stores have lost inventory.

John Lee owns John Lee Nissan, John Lee’s Panama City Mazda and a used-vehicle store in Panama City, Fla., that were all damaged.

Lee has six buildings on site — the Nissan facility is the best off, he said. But every building will need new roofs, and if they aren’t deemed a complete loss, they will need to be gutted, he said. Insurance adjusters are on the scene and power is expected to be restored in about 10 days, Lee told Automotive News on Monday. His employees are safe, though many have lost their homes, he said. Still, many have come to help out, Lee said.

“We’re just trying to do immediate remediation to salvage what we can,” he said. “We know there’s rain coming in a couple days, so we’re trying to protect what we can.”

Photos shared from the John Lee dealerships show major damage — including insulation, piping and pieces of roofing material — all over the inside of his Mazda dealership. Mazdas in the showroom can be seen covered with debris, and lights are hanging into the showroom. Windows appear to have been blown out and blue sky was visible through what once was the roof of the dealership.

“Our team is working hard to get the dealership cleaned up. No electric, no water in the entire city,” Lauren Burton, Internet sales manager at Nissan and Mazda stores, said in an email to Automotive News. “Thankfully all of our employees are safe and our team is stronger than ever.”

Lee said most dealerships in Panama City were damaged.

“All of the dealers pretty much experienced the same thing except for one. Group 1 owns a Honda-Volkswagen dealership that was just recently built a couple of years ago. And they did real well. They didn’t have any damage that I can see.” he said. “The rest of the dealers in Panama City are pretty much in the same boat that I’m in, which is roofs blown off, buildings imploded, inventory is pretty bad off.”

Ford Motor Co. confirmed Monday that five dealerships in Florida and Georgia were still closed following Hurricane Michael, with significant physical damage sustained at AutoNation Ford Panama City, Bay Lincoln in Panama City and Sunbelt Ford-Lincoln of Albany, Ga., said Sherrice Gilsbach, a Ford spokeswoman, in an email to Automotive News. Bay Lincoln was heavily damaged and Sunbelt Ford is open despite damage, she said.

AutoNation Ford Panama City had no power and inventory has been impacted. Henry Arnold Ford Co. in Graceville, Fla., north of Panama City near the Alabama border, and Chipola Ford in Marianna, Fla., were without power, while RiverBend Ford in Bainbridge, Ga., north of Tallahassee, had neither electricity, phone service nor Internet, according to Ford.

Photo credit: JOHN LEE MAZDA

Total damage bill

Complete restoration for the affected communities could take years. A preliminary estimate of damage by Moody’s Analytics on Friday ranges from $ 15 billion to $ 21 billion.

AIR Worldwide, a catastrophe risk modeling firm, said in a statement Monday that industry insured losses resulting from Hurricane Michael’s winds and storm surge will range from $ 6 billion to $ 10 billion. Those figures do not include precipitation-induced flooding and losses paid out by the National Flood Insurance program, said AIR Worldwide.

Insurer State Farm told Automotive News on Monday that it has received approximately 2,520 total auto claims in the states impacted by Hurricane Michael, a figure that is expected to increase as customers discover and report vehicle damage. Of the total auto claims, 1,290 were from Florida, 840 in Georgia, 390 in North Carolina and 390 in Virginia, State Farm said.

Some dealerships will be able to open sooner than others.

Nissan said all of its dealerships affected by Hurricane Michael except for John Lee Nissan and Miller & Miller Nissan in Marianna, Fla., have reopened. Miller & Miller Nissan is closed because of a power outage, which is expected to be restored by the end of the week, a Nissan spokeswoman said.

Honda of Bay County in Panama City, Fla., has not reported any inventory damage and anticipates reopening on Wednesday, said Jessica Pawl, a Honda spokeswoman. Albany Honda in Albany, Ga., is open, but is operating out of a side building because power is out, she said.

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