The blaze may be under control, but for dealers across the United States, the worst is yet to come.
The Felicity Ace saga continues, with the burning ship drifting listlessly across the Atlantic Ocean. Previously, CarBuzz reported authorities were struggling to control the fire aboard the floating inferno, agitated by the numerous electric vehicles on board. But it wasn't just a few Volkswagens and Audis on board. Lost forever to fire and sea are 1,100 Porsches, 189 Bentleys, and several Lamborghinis.
But some good news in this otherwise tragic event is that the fire is now under control. As per Automotive News, a port official has said the blaze has lost its intensity, with very little left to burn. Earlier in the week, Captain Joao Mendes Cabecas, told news agencies that there were concerns the fire may spread to the ship's fuel lines and the tank; a legitimate concern as an explosion could have caused serious environmental damage. The cause of the fire is still unknown.
As rescue teams and technicians weigh up whether it's safe to board the vessel and begin the salvage process, dealers across the country have started the process of contacting affected customers. While the fire hasn't claimed any lives, the loss of nearly 4,000 cars has dealt a severe blow to the already suffering automotive industry.
The ongoing semiconductor chip shortage has seen dealers and automakers come under severe pressure, with customer demand exceeding supply. For the afflicted VW Group dealers in the US, it's about to get a lot worse. Having lost inventory is one thing, but having to assuage frustrated customers who have waited months for their vehicles is even tougher.
Porsche dealer Robert DiStanislao told the news agency that the brand is giving dealers updates on the Felicity Ace, allowing them to communicate with customers. DiStanislao mentioned he also had a car on the ship, a custom-ordered Porsche Cayenne. "It's going to cause us even more shipping delays because we now have one less transport vessel," said DiStanislao.
VW Group dealers are doing everything they can to alleviate any concerns or frustrations customers may have. In fact, DiStanislao has already reordered a Cayenne to replace the one destroyed on the burning ship. While the customer may have to wait until June to receive their new car, limited availability means the client will receive a Platinum-edition Porsche Cayenne at the same price. "The Platinum is more expensive than the original order. But we are keeping the pricing the same for the customer."
Aside from the Q5, most Audi models are imported to the US via car carrier. While Audi has not disclosed how many four-ringed vehicles are aboard the ship, Michelle Primm of Cascade Audi revealed that two of her customer's cars (a Q3 and Q7) were on the ship. While both orders were refilled, Primm noted the customers responded very differently to the situation. "One was [okay] and [the other] was upset."
Volkswagen USA will undoubtedly be the hardest hit. Company executives have said they are still struggling to satisfy demand for the ID.4. General manager at Emich Volkswagen, Fred Emich IV said the Denver-based dealer lost five vehicles to the fire, three of which were already sold.
While certain Porsche and Audi dealers have already reached out to customers, Emich said their dealership is waiting to see whether it can replace orders from other stock before contacting customers. Set to be produced in the US from September, Volkswagen will hopefully be able to keep up with local demand for the ID.4.
Several reports have indicated damages of more than $300 million. Once the burnt vessel is towed to a nearby port, the salvaging process can begin and the real extent of the incident will be revealed. But after a week of incessant burning, it's unlikely any of the vehicles survived the tragedy. We just hope this incident doesn't push vehicle prices even higher, something the average American consumer cannot afford.