Retail Front

Dealers Pitch in After Sandy


When the devastion hit, caring car dealers showed why they are pillars of their communities.

“Aftermath” is a word describing circumstances following a disaster or defeat. The word can emotionally set up a person for bad news.

Hurricane Sandy delivered devastation. We knew it was going to be bad, but few could have envisioned the extent of the damage.

Two weeks later, many people still lack power and some basic needs. Many have lost their homes, cars, possessions, keepsakes family photos, everything.

Take a moment and let that sink in. They’ve lost everything.

A week after the monster storm, a nor’easter blizzard buried much of the Northeast in snow. These people got pounded and then hit again when they were down. I checked the headlines to see if a plague of locusts was coming next.

I had scheduled an Internet “Battle Plan” conference in Atlantic City with 150 people scheduled to attend in early November. I found myself scrambling to reschedule it for mid-December.

As I was calling those Northeast dealerships, I began hearing about the hardships their communities were enduring and what dealers were doing about it.

I heard from Martin D’Amato, Internet manager at Pine Belt Nissan in Toms River, NJ. That area was at ground zero when the hurricane came ashore. Entire communities were leveled.

Martin was appealing for donations to help people living in a local arena converted to a makeshift shelter. He was asking for clothes, shoes, plastic garbage bags, toiletries, anything.

This was days into it. We had already made cash donations through standard charities. But I wanted to do something personal.

My wife and I had closets filled with clothes, good stuff I’ll probably never fit in again anyway. We donated them to Martin. He joked it took two of his strongest guys to carry those clothes into the building.

I began approaching friends in the business elsewhere. The response was incredible. Dealers all over the country shipped supplies.

As I promoted it on Facebook and Twitter, more people responded, most of them in the car business. My friend Jim Boldbook did much. A dealer who asked not to be named sent a huge donation of gift cards the victims could use immediately at stores like Walmart and Target.

We heard from other dealerships, such as Hillside Honda in Jamaica Queens, NY, that participated in collections and deliveries for storm victims. I received an appeal from Hillside’s e-commerce director, Ashley Williams.

I spoke to a longtime friend and client, Mike Basil of Basil Toyota in Buffalo, NY. He has three big generators. The storm didn’t affect his store so he shipped the generators to help people in New York City.

And get this: He then bought two more generators just in case, and ended up shipping them to the help storm victims.

Car dealers sometimes get maligned and vilified. But when the chips are down, dealer always are there for the community. I’m not saying we are the only ones who helped. Many businesses pitched in, and still are doing so. But car dealers did their share, and more.

On a sad note, an Associated Press article indicated CarFax jumped in to take advantage of the storm situation. The seller of vehicle histories claimed hundreds of thousands of Sandy-damaged cars would slip into the market, many more than after Hurricane Katrina.

In the article, a lot of people blasted CarFax for making wild allegations. I Googled the story headline, “Claims About Flood-Damaged Cars Aren’t True.”  Guess what the search results included? A paid ad saying: “Avoid Flood-Damaged Cars. Get CARFAX Vehicle History Reports Before You Buy.”

Oh well. A snifter of Cognac and I’m outta here until next time.

Jim Ziegler, president of Ziegler Supersystems, is a trainer, commentator and public speaker on dealership issues. He can be reached at WardsAuto readers also may comment on this article by logging in or registering below. 

Discuss this Blog Entry 2

on Oct 23, 2013

Ford dealerships in the Pine Belt area are sending relief supplies to help Staten Island communities damaged by Hurricane Sandy.

on May 15, 2013

Hurricane Sandy was the deadliest and most destructive hurricane of the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season, as well as the second-costliest hurricane in United States history. Classified as the eighteenth named storm, tenth hurricane and second major hurricane of the year, Sandy was a Category 3 storm at its peak intensity when it made landfall in Cuba.Sandy developed from a tropical wave in the western Caribbean Sea on October 22, quickly strengthened, and was upgraded to Tropical Storm Sandy six hours later. Sandy moved slowly northward toward the Greater Antilles and gradually intensified. On October 24, Sandy became a hurricane, made landfall near Kingston, Jamaica, a few hours later, re-emerged into the Caribbean Sea and strengthened into a Category 2 hurricane. On October 25, Sandy hit Cuba as a Category 3 hurricane, then weakened to a Category 1 hurricane.

The dealers did something nice by pitching in, thank you guys.


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What's Retail Front?

Blogs about automotive retailing, commenting on news impacting the business of selling vehicles.


Steve Finlay

Steve Finlay is the editor of WardsAuto Dealer Business magazine and a senior editor for His journalism career started 42 years ago as a crime reporter. A Michigan native, he likes...

Jim Ziegler

Jim Ziegler, president of Ziegler Supersystems, is a trainer, commentator and public speaker on dealership issues.
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