U.S. auto sales revved up last month in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. Total sales nationwide increased by 6.1 percent in September compared with a year earlier, according to Autodata Corp. That marked the first year-over-year increase in auto sales in 2017, after months of annual declines. In particular, Ford and General Motors had strong months, with both posting double-digit gains led by a surge in sales of pickup trucks like the Ford F-series and Chevy Silverado. Toyota also saw growth last month, thanks to strong sales of its RAV4 SUV.
Industry analysts believe the sudden uptick in auto sales had more than a little something to do with the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. "Of the extra 100,000 units that were sold (in September) this year over last year, I would imagine the Houston area probably contributed 50,000 or so of that, because there are a lot of insurance claims still out there that haven't been settled from Harvey," says KTRH Car Pro Jerry Reynolds.
All of the post-Harvey deals being offered by automakers is another contributing factor to the sales surge. "Every manufacturer just about had something special if you were a flood victim, whether it be delayed payments or employee pricing or extra rebates," says Reynolds. "By and large, those deals are continuing on into October, because people still need to buy cars and cars are getting very short in supply in Houston."
Indeed, Harvey damaged hundreds of thousands of cars, resulting in a shortage of available vehicles in the Houston area. "Dealers all around Houston are sending buyers out all over the country to auctions to ship cars in," says Reynolds. "This isn't going to end anytime soon."