Dealerships, assembly plants snarled by winter weather slowly resuming operations


Slippery roads. Cold. Burst pipes. Days of wintry weather and its effects have left Texas dealerships reeling as they try to return to normal business operations.

Historic snow, ice, water shortages and below-freezing temperatures forced dealerships and manufacturing plants in Texas and throughout the country to close during the week. In Texas, residents are dealing with water outages and a power grid that collapsed under a spike in energy demand.

It’s not unlike the aftermath of a hurricane, said Darren Whitehurst, president of the Texas Automobile Dealers Association.

“The dealerships that have been open — I don’t think they’ve been getting much traffic,” he said.

Much of Texas is under boil-water notices, Whitehurst said. Dealerships in the region are looking forward to warmer temperatures slated to arrive over the weekend, he added.

“There’s certainly a resiliency, and they do a lot in their communities,” Whitehurst said. “I think you’ll see a lot of efforts from dealers across the state to try and help their fellow Texans get back to normal.”

Penske Automotive Group Inc. said stores have been impacted by the winter weather and power outages. Dealerships in Round Rock and Austin were closed for several days but managed to reopen Friday.

The situation remains “fluid,” spokesman Anthony Pordon told Automotive News in an email.

Group 1 Automotive Inc. was able to reopen 54 Texas dealerships. Most resumed business on Friday, said Pete DeLongchamps, a Group 1 senior vice president. He noted some stores were dealing with a “few, small IT issues.”

The winter weather also shuttered Bert Ogden Auto Group stores in southern Texas. A Chevrolet store, Buick-GMC store, Toyota store and Chrysler store were each closed for a three-day period, said Jorge Gutierrez, a corporate strategist for the group.

The group saw a return to business after rolling blackouts ceased on Thursday around 5 a.m. Seven stores went down throughout the week because of power outages. Those happened to be the group’s largest stores, Gutierrez said.

“It was very worrisome. The worst thing is that there was no communication as far as when this was going to be over. It just ended.” Gutierrez said. “One of the things that was very scary was the fact that our own employees were without power.”

Plants affected

First shifts at General Motors facilities in Arlington, Texas; Spring Hill, Tenn.; and Wentzville, Mo., were idled Friday due to “weather related issues,” a GM spokesman told Automotive News.

Ford Motor Co. assembly plants in both Flat Rock, Mich., and Kansas City, Mo., remain down.

Operations in Flat Rock remain halted due to a weather-related parts shortage, a Ford spokeswoman told Automotive News. Ford chose to cancel operations at its Missouri plant for a week because natural gas availability could be restricted. The company expects normal operations to resume on Monday.

Assembly lines at Toyota Motor Manufacturing Texas in San Antonio — where the automaker produces its Tundra and Tacoma models — are still frozen.

The company’s manufacturing facilities in Mississippi and Indiana ran delayed starts on Friday first shifts, a Toyota spokeswoman said. Production is running normally at facilities in Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri, Alabama and West Virginia.

Production at Nissan’s vehicle assembly plants in Canton, Miss., and Smyrna, Tenn., remains suspended. The company said it hopes to resume normal operations during Friday afternoon shifts should the weather permit.

Nissan’s engine plant in Decherd, Tenn., has resumed production.

And Volkswagen’s plant in Chattanooga, Tenn., reported a temporary production suspension on Friday, citing inclement weather that is having a continued impact on supply chain operations.

Urvaksh Karkaria, China Haley, Larry P. Vellequette, Melissa Burden, Tom Worobec and Bloomberg contributed to this report.

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