JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) _ Officials at the nation’s largest port of entry for imported cars and trucks are laying new pavement to accommodate a flood of vehicles that are getting a cool greeting in this country lately.
By the time the fiscal year ends on June 30, Jacksonville Port Authority officials expect a record 608,000 cars and trucks will be unloaded from ships, an 8 percent increase from last year’s record 565,000 imports.
Cars are parked everywhere at the JPA’s Blount Island Marine Terminal, in the St. Johns River off downtown Jacksonville, which officials say has a capacity of 31,000 vehicles.
Sallyn Steuber, JPA spokeswoman, said there was plenty of room for more. There could soon be as many as 50,000 cars on the island because of expansion, she said.
″It’s a nice problem to have,″ added Cliff Mendoza, JPA deputy managing director. ″We’re laying pavement as fast as we can.″
The lots may be so full because sales of imports are down and the vehicles are sitting longer on the docks, said Thomas O’Grady, an auto analyst with Integrated Automotive Resources in Wayne, Pa.
Sales of Japanese cars, which carry higher price tags because of the dollar’s drop in value against the yen, was down 11.7 percent in the first four months of 1987 and German car sales declined 24.5 percent.
Prices on Japanese autos have risen 15 percent in the past 14 months, said O’Grady.
Although sales are sluggish, the Japanese manufacturers continue to ship cars to Jacksonville to meet the country’s export quota.
″Dealers can only handle so many. The rest tend to back up on us,″ said Vic McNair, executive vice president of World Cars Inc., an auto-processing company. It charges the auto companies for storing cars that don’t move off the docks.
Another reason for the Blount Island congestion is new business for the port.
Mazda has relocated from docks near downtown to Blount Island. In addition, World Cars has picked up contracts with Hyundai, Suzuki and Ford Motor Co.’s Lincoln-Mercury Merkur Division. The port is expecting its first Korean-built Ford Fiestas later this month.
The port went through a scare last year when BMW of North America stopped shipping cars through Jacksonville, saying industrial fallout was damaging the paint on cars. It rerouted its shipment of 16,000 cars a year to Brunswick, Ga.