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Super Storm Sandy's Impact on October Auto Sales

Peter Cade | Stone | Getty Images

Hurricane Sandy and the devastation she brought to New York, New Jersey and huge sections of the East Coast definitely took a bite out of October sales.

What's still not clear is how much it hurt the monthly totals. "There was definitely an impact to the business," says Kurt McNeil, Vice president of U.S. Sales for General Motors.

"It was certainly a few thousand units, we are trying to quantify that as we speak." General Motors estimates the industry sales rate for October likely dropped by approximately 300,000.

With automakers feeling a punch from Sandy, few expect the October auto sales rate to approach 15 million. That's a change from earlier in the month when many in the industry thought this would finally be the month when the SAAR topped 15 million for the first time in 5 years.

October Auto Sales

  • General Motors Up 4.8%
  • Ford Up 0.4%
  • Chrysler Up 10.2%
  • Toyota Up 15.8%
  • Volkswagen Up 22.4%

Losing the Last Week of Sales

As Hurricane Sandy bore down on the East coast last Monday, it shut down hundreds of dealerships for the final three days of October. Since dealers often have their best sales in the final days of a month, the lost business is substantial. Some in the industry think dealers in the Northeast probably suffered an entire week of lost sales. "I think it's likely many dealers saw very slow sales the last week of October as people were more focused preparing for Sandy," says Anthony Pratt, head of forecasting for Polk.

(Read More: Complete Coverage of Hurricane Sandy)

It's hard to say exactly how many potential sales were delayed because of Sandy, but Pratt believes enough business was lost to bring down estimates for the industry's full year sales pace. "Those sales lost by Sandy won't come back right away. They'll be spread out over the months to come and well into early next year," says Pratt.

No Power in the Showroom

For many dealers in New York and New Jersey they are more focused on cleaning up their lots and getting power to the showroom. The Greater New York Automobile Dealers Association estimates over 60% of its member dealers are not operational.

"Over 50% of our dealers in NJ are trying to regain power," says McNeil. "We are doing everything we can and we will work with those individual dealers to help them with their inventory needs to get up to speed as quickly as possible."

"Historically, sales tend to snap back quickly after a disaster like this. Obviously a lot of those consumers and businesses will need vehicles soon," says McNeil.

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___________________________ Questions? Comments? BehindTheWheel@cnbc.com and Follow me on Twitter @LeBeauCarNews

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