With tens of thousands of vehicles damaged or destroyed in the May tornadoes, metro-area auto dealers are preparing for customers to storm their showrooms.
Insurance companies have been cutting checks to customers who suffered a loss, and those people have begun shopping for a replacement vehicle, dealers say.
Nearly 20,000 private auto claims were filed for the May 19 and 20 storms, worth $51.7 million, and 8,215 have been filed for May 30 and 31 worth another $8.2 million, according to the state Insurance Department. Total vehicle losses, including commercial claims, are more than $62 million.
David Stanley Chevrolet is advertising a “tornado relief sale” to capture sales. The dealership, at Interstate 240 and S Walker Avenue, is offering a gasoline voucher for three months and down payment assistance of $1,000.
“Our telephone and floor traffic are increasing,” said Rob Stanley, president of the David Stanley Auto Group. “We haven't seen the majority of it yet. A lot of people are still waiting on insurance checks.”
Internet sales representative Jeff Nguyen said the dealership has been collecting donations, delaying car payments for new buyers and issuing loaner cars to those affected by the storm.
“Obviously, we're a business and we love to sell vehicles and help people out, but this is a little different. We hate selling vehicles in a situation like this. We want to be able to sell people a vehicle because they want a vehicle, not because they need a vehicle,” he said.
Big Red Sports & Imports in Norman has been verifying insurance claims and putting the customer in a vehicle, even before the funds come in — something they wouldn't normally do, said Richard Howard, general manager.
Banks have issued special rates because of the tornadoes and manufacturers are offering incentives like $500 off — and these are often available to all customers, not just tornado victims.
“We've done well because we're so close (to Moore.) We're neighbors. We consider Moore and Norman the same,” Howard said.
John Hunt, with Norman Chrysler Jeep Dodge, said their sales people are trying to give those affected by the tornadoes a break.
“We understand they've gone through a lot ... we're taking some deals with less profit than we normally would,” he said.