Thursday, 14 September 2017 20:22

Hurricane Harvey Ravaged Cars and Trucks — Bad for Drivers, Good for Automakers

Written by James F. Peltz and David Montero, Los Angeles Times
Harvey created epic flooding throughout Houston and southeast Texas. Harvey created epic flooding throughout Houston and southeast Texas. Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times


Dealers also carry insurance to cover losses for the vehicles on their lots---notably for hail storms that are common in Texas---so the insurers would suffer the biggest financial hit from the storm, Hanna said.

Dean Crutchfield, chief information officer at CDK Global, a provider of software and services to auto dealerships, said many Houston-area dealers removed or relocated their computers ahead of the storm “and now they’re coming back into their stores and trying to reestablish normal operations.”

“One of the key themes we’ve seen is the dealers’ interest in maintaining their payroll operations” so that their employees don’t miss a paycheck even though car sales were disrupted by Harvey, Crutchfield said.

And what of the flood-damaged cars?

“Most of the vehicles are sold to parts companies who dismantle them and resell usable parts that were not damaged by the flooding,” the National Insurance Crime Bureau, an insurance trade group, said in an advisory.

But the bureau advised buyers to “be particularly careful in the coming weeks and months as thousands of Harvey-damaged vehicles may reappear for sale in their areas” across the nation, a problem that also occurred in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

That disaster led the bureau to create the free VINCheck database, which lets vehicle shoppers check a vehicle identification number to see if the car or truck was deemed “salvage” by an insurance company because of flood or accident or if it was reported stolen. Uninsured vehicles, however, would escape the insurance industry’s scrutiny.

“Unfortunately, some of the flooded vehicles may be purchased at bargain prices, cleaned up and then taken out of state where the VIN [vehicle identification number] is switched and the car is re-titled with no indication it has been damaged,” the bureau said. “Buyers should have a vehicle checked by a reputable mechanic or repair facility before handing over any cash.”

Mark Holstein decided he would bypass insurance and dealerships altogether.

The Port Aransas resident left his white 1980 Camaro in the garage during the hurricane as he high-tailed it out of there and headed for drier land in San Antonio in his truck.

The low-to-the-ground sports car had been a labor of love for him over the years, as he had refurbished the black leather interior and was working on replacing the transmission to give it better performance.

After Harvey, the car took in 3 feet of water. Mold was growing. The engine had drowned in the salty Gulf of Mexico water. The flared exhaust pipes along the running boards were already caked in rust.

Holstein, 59, said he wouldn’t bother with insurance. Instead, he said he’d just consider it another project.

“I guess I’ll start over,” he said. “Something to keep me busy.”

Peltz reported from Los Angeles, Montero from Houston.

We thank the Los Angeles Times for reprint permission. 

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