Automotive related businesses see demand for hurricane aftermath needs
SAN JUAN – While Puerto Rico’s new-car market crashed in September, with sales decreasing by a staggering 63.8%, other automotive related businesses are thriving in the aftermath of Hurricane María. Lines at some gas stations are still long, and with no electricity in most of the island, demand for diesel is still very high.
Another related segment that is enjoying an unexpected boom in business is car-repair shops. From broken windows or windshields to dented body panels, many vehicles sustained different degrees of damage, and there are shops to fix that.
Carlos Burgos, owner of Platinum Tire Center in the Camarones sector of Guaynabo has experienced a strong surge in sales since the storm. “There are a lot more customers than usual. The most I’m getting are orders for window replacements. There were a lot of cars with broken glass because of the hurricane,” he told Caribbean Business.
His shop, which opened a scant four days after the storm, has also seen a rise in demand for body parts. He said heavily dented hoods, doors and other body panels are things he sees every day.
Juan Carlos Figueroa, manager of Toñito Auto Parts has also been experiencing the exact, same pattern. His shop sells both body and engine parts for Kia, Mazda, Hyundai and Mitsubishi vehicles. Just like Burgos, he has noticed an increase in sales specifically for body parts, and says many customers mention that the damages were caused by the hurricane.
Figueroa joked that the situation has even created a new star in his inventory: engine oil and filters. But no, they are not for cars, but for that most precious of commodities in the new, post-María Puerto Rico: power generators.
“Just like cars, generators require maintenance, and that includes an oil change along with the filter.” He explained that instead of miles, the intervals are measured by hours, and with generators powering houses and establishments every day, those oil changes can become rather frequent.
Burgos has also befriended a new star in his inventory: tire patches. “We’ve been fixing more flat tires than normally. There are still a lot of nails on the road from debris and fallen signage,” he explained.
But although both businessmen have been experiencing a rise in sales, they have been hurt by a rise of another type: costs.
Burgos’s business hasn’t had power restored since the storm Sept. 20, and Figueroa has gotten power from the utility sporadically, which means both have had to rely on generators. In Burgos’s, case that means buying $400 worth of diesel every couple of days. “It adds up and ends up taking away from the extra business we have been making,” he complained.