Damaging Hail Pummels Vt. Car Dealer’s Inventory

(NECN: Jack Thurston, Rutland, Vt.) - Nearly 200 new and used cars on the lot at Shearer Honda in Rutland, Vermont were damaged in a powerful thunderstorm Tuesday that brought high winds and hail. "A million dollar job is one way of putting it," said Kevin Bowie, the dealership's general manager, describing the scope of the damage.

Hail the size of gumdrops and ping pong balls pummeled the vehicles, leaving a few broken windows, lots of cracked taillights, and uncountable dents in just about every vehicle on the lot. "Our first call was to our insurance company," Bowie recalled.

Bowie said his team was preparing to clean the damaged cars so they could be inspected by several insurance adjusters this weekend. He said he expects most of the repair costs will be covered by insurance and the cars should all be sellable. "In crisis, there's an opportunity," Bowie said, pledging to sell the damaged inventory.

Marilyn Miller of the Vermont Vehicle and Automotive Distributors Association, a trade group representing Vermont car dealers, told New England Cable News that other members in Rutland also reported storm damage from the hail, to varying degrees based on where their inventory was parked.

If you're worried that the new car you're looking at might have been damaged and repaired before you drive it off the lot, Miller and Bowie said in Vermont, the kind of damage that affected Shearer's cars must be disclosed to customers. They said state statute requires dealers to notify purchasers in writing about uncorrected and corrected damage costing more than a few hundred dollars to repair.

Consumer Angelique McAlpine of Pittsfield, Vermont was shopping for a new car Thursday and closely examined the cosmetic damage to the vehicles at Shearer Honda. "It wasn't until I got here and I saw how much damage there was that I thought, 'Maybe this can work in my favor!'"

McAlpine said she wanted to purchase a dinged-up car "as-is," explaining she was not as interested in the appearance of the car as she was in its functionality. She told NECN she did end up buying a storm-pinged car, believing the discount the dealer offered her helped her land nicer extras than she could have afforded otherwise. "If it's got a few dings, it's going to happen anyway in a couple years," McAlpine said. "If I start out with them, I don't have to feel bad when I get the first one!"

That was one shopper's silver lining to the dark storm clouds earlier this week.

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