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In the Aftermath of Sandy [Perspective]

We lost power. That’s all. Played board games and slept in the basement while outside Sandy howled and cried and thrashed her way through the Mid-Atlantic.

Damn. Lucky us.
Farther north, the damage and chaos caused by Hurricane Sandy was terrifying, and is heartbreaking. At least 98 people have died; as of this writing 4.5 million households across 12 states are still without electricity. The cost of the storm is estimated to be approximately $50 billion, behind only Hurricanes Katrina, Andrew and the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

The human face to those numbers is more sobering, and far more real.  People in New York no longer have homes. Gasoline is not available, so many – you and I – stand in lines for hours. Families in New Jersey are without power and have no connection to the outside world. Staten Island is ravaged. Small businesses have lost everything. 

For those of us in the business of selling and marketing cars, Sandy ushers in a stark November and the reality that 20 percent of the automotive market is underwater.  Thousands of cars are damaged, useless, and of no practical use. It means the chance for inventory lags due to port closures and damages, and reshuffles the deck on consumer priorities. Fact is, the people who still want to purchase a car may not have a fully functioning dealership nearby, or even a car to test drive, for days or weeks. So for the auto business, the storm after the storm promises to be a challenge, and over the term, will actually spurr demand for new cars. But for now, the picture is bleak.

“From what we do know, the impact on the auto industry will be severe,” David Hyatt, vice president of public affairs for the National Automobile Dealers Association, said in a statement published first by the NYTimes.com. “Widespread power outages are hampering communications between dealers and their employees. Depending on locations along the East Coast, power is not expected to be restored for several days to a week or longer.”

Those employees number around 30,000, people who work for more than 4,700 dealerships in the area impacted by Sandy. For many, they will have no place to go on Monday morning, or their job is no longer so much about BDC as it is cleanup and repair. They represent the communities up and down the Eastern seaboard that are digging out and rebuilding lives, and they remind me about how vital dealerships are to those communities. 

That's what's most important. Right? And in some ways, the storm that lashed through the East, tore through neighborhoods, crumpled homes and erased memories also brought that into perspective: cars are the last thing to be concerned about when you have no home, and digital marketing is a great tool that will never, ever, replace the warm dynamic of a personal relationship. In the aftermath of Sandy, it’s those relationships that matter and those connections that carry the most weight. Many of the people who bought your cars over the years are today looking at shattered lives. Maybe a week ago they were planning to buy a new Camry, or a Passat.  

Today? They’re wondering how the hell to get the kitchen out of the living room.

 

--Brian Chee

Read more of my articles and opinions at DrivingSales

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Tags: New, York, car, marketing, new, sales, sandy

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