Automotive retailer Group 1 Auto (NYSE:GPI) said yesterday it is assessing damage at four of its New Orleans dealerships caused by a Feb. 24 hail storm. The National Weather Service said hail as large as 2.5 inches pounded the city and suburbs as a northward moving warm front rose and met with very cold temperatures high in the air.

Group 1 said after a preliminary assessment it appeared some of its facilities sustained damage, as did most of the new and used vehicle inventory located at the four stores, which represents 2.5% of its total new vehicle unit sales in 2012. The four dealerships are composed of five franchises, including Ford, Buick, General Motors, Toyota, and Hyundai. 

Because the company is insured with large deductibles, it currently estimates it will incur pre-tax charges related to them in the range of $1.1 million to $1.4 million, or approximately $0.03 per diluted common share, in the first quarter. Group 1 expects sales to be adversely affected until inventories are fully replenished by late May.

Group 1 owns and operates 142 automotive dealerships, 182 franchises, and 36 collision centers in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Brazil that offer 35 brands of automobiles. 

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