Irma Forces Dealerships, Ports to Close

First Up 09/12/17

Irma Forces Dealerships, Ports to Close 
Tropical storm Irma swung further west than expected over the weekend, but southeast Florida didn't come away unscathed, reports Automotive News. The massive storm left AutoNation Inc.'s headquarters in Fort Lauderdale among the millions of customers in the state without power. AutoNation said its teams will work remotely as its headquarters remain closed Monday.  While Irma moves north toward Georgia after being downgraded from a hurricane to a tropical storm earlier Monday, the nation's largest dealership group said its stores in Albany, Savannah and Brunswick, Ga., were closed as a precaution. AutoNation stores in central and northern Florida, including Jacksonville and Panama City, are also closed. Further south, stores in Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties remained closed Monday along with dealerships in Clearwater, Fort Myers, and Tampa. For more on how Irma impacted dealer operations in Florida, click here.

Car-Centric Houston Struggles After Loss of Countless Autos
More than a week after Harvey slammed Houston, wreckers like Bryan Harvey are still hauling cars and trucks from flooded neighborhoods to dealerships or to vast fields where insurance adjusters can assess the damage. CNBC reports that Harvey killed at least 70 people, destroyed or damaged 200,000 homes—and inflicted an automotive catastrophe on one of America's most car-dependent cities. The Houston area has lost hundreds of thousands of cars, says Michael Hartmann, general manager of Don McGill Toyota of Katy, a city of 17,000 about 30 miles west of Houston. "We have a shortage of rental cars and people not sure how to go about handling claims and just what to do with their lives." Few American cities depend on cars as much as Houston. More than 94 percent of the city's households have cars, second only to Dallas, the Cox Automotive consultancy says. Houston is even less amenable to walking, bicycle-riding, and mass transit than freeway-mad Los Angeles, according to Walk Score. For more, click here.

Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz Launch Electric Cars
German automakers Volkswagen Group and Daimler on Monday announced ambitious new plans to make long-range electric vehicles in a rapidly intensifying competition with Tesla, General Motors, Nissan, and other global auto companies. According to The Detroit Free Press, their timing could be just right after years of tepid industry sales for electric cars. Volkswagen, the world's largest car company, said at the Frankfurt auto show in Germany that it expects to sell up to 3 million battery-powered cars by 2025, representing about a quarter of its vehicles. The company also Monday showed off a newly designed electric sport-utility vehicle called the I.D. Crozz that will arrive in 2020, along with a compact hatchback electric car called the I.D. And Daimler luxury brand Mercedes-Benz said it would make an electric model of all of its vehicles by 2022. For more on Volkswagen and Daimler’s electric car plans, click here

The Faces of Fraud 
Fraud is rising across most U.S. industries, and auto retail is no exception, reports Automotive News. Old and new types of fraud are keeping dealers and lenders on edge. The annual value of auto loan originations that contain some element of fraud may be as high as $6 billion this year, double the value estimated for 2016 originations, according to PointPredictive, a San Diego company specializing in fraud detection. The share of identity-theft complaints related to auto finance is up, too. According to the Federal Trade Commission, 1.7 percent of identity-theft complaints last year indicated that auto loans or leases had been generated by ID thieves, up from 0.8 percent in 2015. Dealerships are facing — alongside the threats of phony buyers and data attacks — the fraud risk that comes with hiring and working with unvetted employees. Many dealers skip criminal background checks, which in the long run could leave them on the hook for way bigger costs than the price of checks, plus a reputation to fix. For more on fraud in the auto industry, click here.

States Sue Trump Administration Over Fuel Economy Fines 
New York, California, and three other states are suing the Trump administration, saying it must put in place higher penalties for automakers that violate federal fuel economy standards. According to The Detroit News, the U.S. Department of Transportation more than doubled civil penalties for fuel economy violations last year after Congress ordered agencies to adjust their fines for inflation. The new rule, which was set to take effect in July, would require automakers to pay $14 for every tenth of a mile per gallon of fuel a vehicle consumes over its minimum fuel economy, multiplied by the number of vehicles sold. Since the mid-1970s, automakers have paid $5.50 for every tenth of a mile per gallon over the limit. Automakers objected, saying the change would cost them $1 billion per year. The federal government delayed the rule indefinitely in July, saying it didn’t adequately consider the cost to automakers. For more, click here

Webinar: The (Near) Future of the Auto Industry
The automotive industry is changing fast, and the future is feeling more and more like the present. Join AIADA's September AutoTalk webinar on Tuesday, September 19, at 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. EDT, for an update on the future of the industry and a look at the top questions auto dealers are faced with today. Tim Zierden, Vice President of Enterprise Dealer Partnerships, will be on hand to discuss big happenings in the industry, ranging from credit availability to digital retail. Click here to register

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