Auto industry expects minimal disruption from port closure


Concerns about the impact the Baltimore bridge collapse will have on auto imports and exports are beginning to subside as car companies turn to other ports along the East Coast.

On Thursday, market researcher Cox Automotive said it expects the situation in Baltimore to have no material impact on vehicle sales in the United States.

“Although Baltimore is the top port for auto shipments, it is unlikely to create any sudden new problems in vehicle supply or impact the market,” Cox chief economist Jonathan Smoke said in a conference call. “The port is heavy on exports and imports, but there are alternatives.”

Mercedes-Benz said it has already found other ways to handle the vehicles it typically imports from Germany through Baltimore.

“Together with our transportation partners, we reviewed our supply routes and successfully optimized them,” the company said in a statement. “We are confident that our cars will be delivered on time to customers in the US in April.”

The company said it already has locations in Charleston, SC and Brunswick, Ga., in addition to Baltimore. Uses ports in. Mercedes also said that the Tuscaloosa, Ala. There was no impact on exports of vehicles made by it in India and shipment of parts to that factory.

The majority of vehicles sold in the United States are assembled in North America. Even for those European automakers that rely on the Port of Baltimore, the impact is likely to be minimal because many of their most popular models are made here.

For example, BMW makes its sport-utility vehicles in South Carolina. It imports sedans and sports cars from Germany, but they sell in lower numbers than SUVs, the two exceptions being the BMW 3 and 4 Series sedans. But the auto maker must have enough inventory on dealer lots to continue selling for some time.

According to Cox Automotive, at the end of March, BMW had enough vehicles on dealer lots to last about 70 days at the current rate of sales, which is slightly below the industry average.

Additionally, some of the Port of Baltimore's automotive operations were not affected by the bridge collapse. The Tradepoint Atlantic Terminal, used by Volkswagen, is at the mouth of the harbor east of the Francis Scott Key Bridge, and is still accessible to sea vessels.

Automobiles are transported in ships known as roll-on, roll-off ships. These ships require special port and dock facilities. Imported vehicles must also be processed at the port before being shipped to dealers. Sometimes cars are fitted with additional equipment before they are loaded onto trucks or trains.

The Port of Brunswick in Georgia already handles hundreds of thousands of cars, trucks and other vehicles per year. Its automotive facility, Colonel Island Terminal, covers more than 600 acres, and has more than 400 acres available for expansion. Ports in Charleston, Jacksonville, Florida, Newark and Norfolk, Virginia can also handle roll-on, roll-off vessels.


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