The Scottsdale-area, site of the much-anticipated annual car auctions, was hit with a storm of nearly unprecedented magnitude: tropical-storm-level winds of more than 60 miles per hour, nearly 4 inches of rain, flash flooding and reports of a tornado. All of the area auctions were impacted by the weather to some degree, but none with the severity of Russo and Steele.
During the evening of Jan. 21, severe straight winds at the Russo and Steele site blew one of the main tents covering the cars off its moorings. A second tent collapsed. Fortunately, no serious injuries were reported, but hundreds of cars were damaged.
Eyewitness Mike Kopp, a detailer with AZ Wash Boy, said "there was a big wind gust and all of a sudden one of the main tents ripped away and there were metal and tent parts all over the 101." The 101 is a loop highway in the Phoenix area. It remained closed until morning rush hour.
Hagerty was the first insurer on site, arriving at dawn on Jan. 22. “While the circumstances are extremely unfortunate, we’re glad we were there early to help,” said company CEO McKeel Hagerty.
Claims Vice President Chuck Favour surveyed the damage from the periphery of the site. "Damage to cars runs the gamut from dings and water damage to major impacts from poles impacting cars,” Favour said. “The best thing owners can do is to photo-document their losses. We'll be here for as long as we need to be to assist.”
It was a long weekend for organizers. In anticipation of continuing rain, Russo and Steele worked to cover the majority of the cars on site. At first light on Friday, specialty car cover company Cover King donated a number of waterproof car covers to begin the clean-up efforts and to ensure the safety of the cars.
The City of Scottsdale Fire Marshall cleared Russo and Steele to open the doors for car owners on Saturday morning for a special briefing. Russo President Drew Alcazar had a chance to address consignors and to alleviate some of their fears. “In my estimation as 15 years as a restorer and 15 years as an auctioneer none of these cars had terminal damage; everything can get fixed and most important, everyone is safe."
Russo and Steele resumed its auction Sunday morning at 8 a.m., with plans for more action on Monday. They sold $5.59 million on Sunday, bringing the weekend sales up to $6.88 million with a sales percentage of 39%. The average price per car is $48,000.
Russo and Steele sold $19.1 million in 2008 and $17.5 million in 2009. Final numbers haven’t been released yet from this year, but it looks like they made the best of a difficult situation. Despite everything that happened to the company with the storm and the complete upset of their auction schedule, the average sale price per car was off only $1,000, or 2 percent, from last year.