Superstorm Sandy has hit and the damage estimates are piling up for both private-property owners and businesses. One area for our industry that inevitably comes under the microscope after catastrophic weather is used vehicles that were either damaged by debris or flooded.
Unfortunately, there are precedents to look at regarding used cars that have been damaged by hurricane flooding including Katrina, Rita and Wilma from 2005. Those storms damaged over 600,000 cars and many of those still come up for sale today. Because of titling loopholes, water-soaked vehicles can be detailed and shipped out-of-state only to return with a “washed” title. For the most part, this activity is confined to independents and private-party sales. You can be sure the consumer watchdogs will be looking for violators.
As a dealer you know the dangers of selling vehicles that have received this type of damage; your customers may not be on the same wave-length. We are urging our dealers to communicate through e-blasts the pitfalls of purchasing used vehicles unless their history is totally complete – that is the first step in building consumer confidence in your approach to recovery. Remind your market that the danger of flood-damaged vehicles goes far beyond mildew and mold. The gravest danger is to a vehicle’s electronic systems, many of which are integral in safety-features.
We are going to further examine the effect of this storm on price levels, inventory availability and buyer-preferences for particular models in future blogs.
To everyone who is digging out, we send our continued thoughts and prayers. And from having seen rebuilding efforts from previous storms remember these two words: caveat emptor – buyer beware! It is not just flooded vehicles that take advantage of consumers but also fly-by-night construction crews that promise the world then take the money and leave you high-and-dry in the worst way. Good luck.