Friday 28 April 2017

Flood boost for motor trade as cars written off

Jerome Reilly

Jerome Reilly

Thousands of cars were written off in last week's floods, causing major losses for motorists and insurance companies who may now have to raise premiums -- but also giving the motor industry a much-needed boost.

Modern electronic engine management systems and the growth in the number of diesel cars -- which are particularly prone to flood damage -- will lead to a record number of new or nearly new cars being written off.

Though in many cases the vehicles are repairable, the cost is often prohibitive and insurers will agree to the damaged vehicles being scrapped and replaced, the Sunday Independent has learned.

Leading marque BMW registered dozens of brand new cars on Friday to ensure its customers stay mobile while the long process of getting damaged vehicles assessed and insurance claims processed gets under way.

In a clear case of "it's an ill wind" the motor industry will benefit from the unprecedented number of cars that have been damaged beyond repair and will have to be replaced.

Many car owners could only watch helplessly as cars, parked in secure underground car parks, including Dundrum Town Centre and in multi-storey residential car parks, were engulfed by floodwaters.

Earlier this month Central Statistics Office figures revealed that the number of new cars sold in Ireland in September was down significantly on the same month last year. In all, 2,861 new private cars were licensed in September 2011, down by 39 per cent from the 4,683 vehicles which were licensed during the same month in 2010.

The fall follows the end of the government-sponsored scrappage scheme which offered motorists up to €1,500 off the registration charge for some new vehicles to replace cars aged 10 years or older.

Last week the main dealers of all the major car manufacturers and the car rescue services were inundated with calls for help.

Michael Nugent of BMW said he estimated that thousands of cars were badly damaged as a result of last week's rainstorms, described by experts as a once-in-a- century phenomenon.

"Thousands got into difficulties ranging from straightforward breakdowns to those who have unfortunately had their cars written off.

"It's hard to put a figure on it but certainly the retail car sector is under pressure to look after customers. The emergency breakdown companies were also under pressure and I have to say I think they did a fantastic job in the most difficult of circumstances," Mr Nugent said.

One of the issues that has arisen is that insurance claims will have to be made and insurers have to send out an assessor -- but they are swamped by the backlog of requests.

Mr Nugent said that all of BMW's regular fleet of back-up cars for customers were now out on the road so they had taken the decision to register a large number of new vehicles even though that will mean they will have an 11 registration rather than being sold in the new year with a 12 plate.

"We made the decision to make these cars available to tide people over while their claims are being processed, and, of course, there is a bank holiday this weekend and we didn't want customers inconvenienced," he said.

From a technical perspective, new cars with increasingly complex electronic ignition systems are particularly prone to costly damage because of floodwaters.

One of the biggest problems is if wiring is damaged. Even though only a small part of the wiring loom may be damaged, the whole loom has to be replaced and it's the dismantling of the car which adds most to the actual cost of the repair and makes salvage uneconomic.

Interior damage can generally not be repaired by cleaning and has to be replaced.

The other big problem is in relation to cars being driven through floodwaters which is particularly problematic for diesel engines which now form the bulk of new car purchases.

Sunday Independent

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