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Smoke on Cars

Hurricane Dorian: Early Look at Potential Impact on Vehicles

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Article Highlights

  1. The category of the storm isn’t as important to estimating potential vehicle damage as population and vehicle density, risk of flooding, and evacuation/advanced warning/preparation. 
  2. With the broad possible footprint for the storm at this point, damage could be less than 100,000 vehicles but could be as high as 250,000.
  3. In addition to vehicle damage, Dorian also has the potential to negatively impact sales over the Labor Day weekend, a huge milestone in the automotive sales year. Looking at the new-vehicle sales in the area that will most likely be impacted, Florida represents 7% of the new-vehicle market.

UPDATE (09/03/19): After reaching Category 5 strength over the weekend and severely impacting parts of the Bahamas, forecasts now predict Hurricane Dorian will steer in a more northern direction and not directly hit Florida. By staying off-shore and following the coastline, Hurricane Dorian is not expected to impact the auto industry when it comes to damages in Florida, but because of the uncertainty throughout the weekend on path, the impact could be felt when retail sales for August are reported tomorrow.

Additionally, the northern cast of the storm will likely disrupt port activity in northeast Florida (Port of Jacksonville) and southeast Georgia (Port of Savannah and Port of Brunswick) in the coming week.

According to the Georgia Port Authority, the Port of Brunswick is the main port for import/export of vehicles in Georgia. Brands like BMW, Honda, Kia, Land Rover, Mercedes, Nissan, Porsche, Volkswagen, and Volvo have a presence at this port. Interestingly, the new Kia Telluride is exported from Georgia via Port of Brunswick. For the fiscal year that ended June 30, nearly 650,000 vehicles moved through Georgia’s ports.

The Jacksonville Port Authority reports over 650,000 vehicles were handled last calendar year including brands like Mazda, Nissan and Toyota (along with some that the Georgia Port Authority sees like Porsche).

Port disruption, however, will likely be short term and not materially impact the flow of vehicles.

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After transitioning from the housing industry to automotive, I learned quickly that houses and cars have more than one commonality. Not only are they the two most expensive purchases made in a lifetime, but also both are impacted by hurricanes. With Hurricane Dorian being forecast to intensify into a Category 4 before making landfall along the southeastern U.S. coast over Labor Day weekend, we are once again keeping a watchful eye on possible damages — especially to vehicles.

The advisory distributed by the National Hurricane Center at 8 a.m. EDT today showed that Dorian is expected to become a major hurricane later today and remain an extremely dangerous hurricane through the weekend. Coastal sections of the Southeast could see 6 to 12 inches (isolated 15 inches) of rain, according to the National Hurricane Center. Dorian’s slower movement as it nears the coast could cause major flooding.

Source: National Hurricane Center

 

As we learned from studying vehicle damage/loss data after Hurricanes Harvey and Irma in Texas and Florida two years ago, the category of the storm isn’t as important to estimating potential vehicle damage as population and vehicle density, risk of flooding, and evacuation/advanced warning/preparation. Vehicles are hurt more by flooding than wind. Dorian is not expected to produce flooding like Hurricanes Harvey or Katrina. Given the wide range of potential impact in Florida, population and vehicle density remain a risk, but a direct landing north of Miami-Dade County would avoid the densest area.

Florida has several days to prepare and is experienced in evacuations. As a result, we expect vehicle damage to be minimized relative to what’s possible. With the broad possible footprint for the storm at this point, damage could be less than 100,000 vehicles but could be as high as 250,000.

In addition to vehicle damage, Dorian also has the potential to negatively impact sales over the Labor Day weekend, a huge milestone in the automotive sales year. Looking at the new-vehicle sales in the area that will most likely be impacted, Florida represents 7% of the new-vehicle market. Only California and Texas are more important to the industry.

Here are some additional data points to consider:

  • Florida ranks third in Vehicles in Operation (VIO) by State and accounts for roughly 6% of Total VIO in the U.S.
  • Seven of Florida’s 67 counties account for 50% of total state VIO. Hence, where Dorian lands is very critical to the level of damage that could be experienced.
  • Miami-Dade has the largest VIO of any Florida county and accounts for 11.7% of Florida VIO.
  • Three Florida DMAs are in the top 20 largest DMA markets as measured by VIO.
  • Tampa DMA is 15th in the U.S.; Tampa accounts for 1.4% of national VIO and 23% of Florida VIO.
  • Orlando DMA is 17th in the U.S.; Orlando accounts for 1.3% of national VIO and 21% of Florida VIO.
  • Ford, Toyota, Chevy, Honda and Nissan are the most popular makes (existing) in Florida as measured by VIO and account for 54% of the vehicles registered in the state.
  • Florida’s top three markets (Miami, Tampa, and Orlando) account for 67.9% of new retail registrations this year).
  • The largest market is Miami with 27.2% share of state’s total new retail.
  • The bestselling brand in Florida this year is Toyota – accounting for 16.3% of new retail registrations. Honda (9.9%) and Chevy (8.2%) round out the top 3.
  • The bestselling model in Florida this year is the Toyota Corolla – accounting for 4.0% of new retail registrations. Ford F-Series (3.1%) and Toyota RAV4 (3.0%) round out the top 3.

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