The November 2012 vehicle sales figures were released this week, and the new demand in the Northeast was the likely cause of the sales spike. According to an automotive industry sales chart compiled by Autoblog, there was a 13.8 percent increase in total vehicle sales as compared to November 2011, with eight of the nine major automobile companies seeing positive growth. That’s over double the 6.8 percent increase seen in October 2012 from October 2011.
One contributing factor is the estimated 230,000 vehicles in the New York-New Jersey area that were destroyed because of Superstorm Sandy. The late-October storm affected this highly populated area where reliance on a vehicle is crucial, creating an instant demand.
Manufacturers such as Nissan, Hyundai and Subaru created incentive-laden programs for consumers who needed to replace their damaged vehicles. There were additional incentives and services offered at the dealer level that made vehicle replacement event easier. New York-based Tier10 Marketing clients Paragon Auto Group, Rallye Acura and Teddy Nissan and VW all had similar programs in place in which they not only offered to pick up and assess a customer’s car, they also handled all their insurance claims.
“Not everybody likes the process of dealing with insurance or buying a new car, but everybody enjoys having a new car,” said Andrew Diffenderfer, Marketing Director with Tier10 Marketing with vast experience in the New York market. “But this situation wasn’t a matter of, ‘Hey, you lost your car; let’s sell you a new one.’ It was, ‘Hey, we’re here to help.’ And whether it was questions, service issues, vehicle repairs or total loss vehicle replacements, all of that accounted to being able to help the community and being able to help people who needed cars.”
Some of these same dealers offering replacement vehicles also experienced losses of their own. For example, Rallye Acura in Long Island was without power for a week. Paragon Honda and Paragon Acura lost over 900 vehicles in inventory.
The dealers provided answers to the many questions that consumers had, according to Diffenderfer, including what to do with their flooded cars. In fact, the chart below shows that searches for “flooded car” peaked from Oct. 28 through Nov. 3, the days immediately following Sandy. If you’re skeptical of the numbers because you think there were many people searching for pictures or stories of flooded cars, you can see that the concentration of searches came from New York – an area heavily affected.
Realistically, these 230,000 vehicles wouldn’t be the only reason for the nationwide sales spike, especially since many people are still likely dealing with insurance claims. Scott Fletcher, Vice President of Client Services and co-founder of Tier10 Marketing, attributes an additional factor still related to the storm.
“Leading up to Sandy’s landfall, many people along the Eastern Seaboard were busier worrying about their house than they were with buying a car, especially with the storm’s unpredictable path,” Fletcher said.
Therefore, with the storm’s landfall at the end of October in the most populated part of the country, consumers who would typically buy vehicles at the end of the month held off on doing so. When November came around and the storm cleanup took place, these consumers were then added to the market on top of those consumers who typically buy vehicles in November.
Fletcher also posits that opportunistic consumers took advantage of the manufacturers’ sales incentives, many of which were available for consumers who weren’t affected by Sandy. This created an additional stream of consumers that were brought into the market due to deals they could not pass up.
But how long will this bounce back last?
“I think you’re going to see it certainly through December,” said Diffenderfer. “I think it’ll still have legs even through January because the year-end is always the busiest and best time to buy a vehicle. It may last even longer, depending on how quickly people process their insurance claims.”
Tier10 Marketing Search Analyst Tara Sullivan contributed the Google Trends results featured.