Hurricane Florence: North Carolina may lose thousands of vehicles

Hurricane Florence will likely damage thousands of vehicles from high winds and flooding, according to a Cox Automotive report published Tuesday.

If the Category 4 storm maintains its current path, Cox Automotive said North Carolina could lose 20,000 to 40,000 vehicles. The total loss would be less than vehicle damage from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, which caused hundreds of thousands of vehicles to be scrapped.

After Harvey hit the Gulf Coast, new- and used-vehicle sales spiked in the Houston market. The storm also impacted prices for used vehicles across the country, as dealers in affected areas needed to replenish inventories to meet demand during the recovery.

“We’ve taken a look at the potential automotive impact and, thankfully, believe the loss in total will be manageable,” Cox Automotive said, adding that vehicle density in Florence’s current path is about half that of Houston. “While any flooded vehicle is a disaster, we expect Florence to take relatively few in comparison to other hurricanes.”

Cox Automotive, the parent company of Kelley Blue Book and Autotrader, noted that 10.2 million people live along the East Coast from Savannah, Georgia, to Norfolk, Virginia. Population density is less than half that of the Houston vehicle market or the state of Florida, though the area is home to 9 million vehicles in operation. North Carolina counties that Florence may impact have 3.9 million vehicles, or 44 percent of the state’s vehicles.

Hurricane Florence is expected to impact a large stretch of the East Coast. The storm will make landfall Friday in North Carolina, according to the latest forecasts. The Carolinas and Virginia have already issued evacuations in coastal areas.