Mar 27, 2024 - News

Baltimore's bridge collapse expected to disrupt Colorado's car industry

The collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge is seen in the background of the on-ramp to the bridge on Wednesday in Baltimore. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

The tragic collapse of Baltimore's Francis Scott Key Bridge on Tuesday will have economic impacts in Colorado.

The big picture: The Port of Baltimore is one of the busiest in the U.S., particularly for car shipments, and this week's disaster is expected to affect the flow of commerce countrywide, Axios' Mimi Montogomery and Ivana Saric write.

Zoom in: Although Colorado's vehicles mostly come in from the Port of Los Angeles, smaller manufacturers looking to get cars from East Coast dealers won't be able to very quickly for an indeterminate amount of time, industry experts tell us.

  • Generally, European companies ship cars in through the East Coast, while Asian carmakers send them through the West Coast.

Threat level: "If you're driving a Hyundai or you're driving a Toyota, it's probably not going to impact you too much. But if you drive a Porsche or Audi, you're going to see a slowdown" if you need a repair, Colorado Auto Dealers Association CEO and president Matthew Groves tells us.

  • Where it's likely to "hurt the most" is for people with backordered cars, which tend to be popular models placed on reservation for 12 to 18 months.
  • Overall, however, the impact in Colorado is likely to be "manageable" and "minimal," he notes.

What they're saying: "We will continue to monitor the situation to fully understand the impact to Colorado and important supply chains," Colorado Department of Revenue spokesperson Daniel Carr tells us.

State of play: Colorado's car industry is improving after taking a major hit in inventory while car loan interest rates spiked in the wake of the pandemic.

  • Now, year-over-year sales numbers of new cars are steadily increasing.

By the numbers: The state was sitting between 209,000 and 218,000 new cars sold in 2019, but dropped to about 194,000 in 2022, per Colorado Auto Dealers Association data.

  • Last year, that number rose closer to 210,000, "so we're not quite back to where we started, but we are definitely moving in the right direction," Groves says.

What we're watching: It's too early to determine how long the port will be closed, Maryland Transportation Secretary Paul J. Wiedefeld told reporters Tuesday.

  • But President Biden said he's asked his team "to move heaven and earth to reopen the port and rebuild the bridge as soon as humanly possible."
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