According to MSCRA President John Mosley, "Our goal is to help consumers avoid the financial disaster of buying a vehicle that has been in a flood. Most of the recent hurricane-related flood vehicles have properly documented titles. However, there are many running under the radar, so to speak, due to not being insurance claims or being bought and sold by those experienced at title washing.
"The Department of Justice will be prosecuting those committing criminal offenses to sell these vehicles to the unsuspecting public. Our role would be to offer free inspections to consumers before they buy the vehicle. There will be public service announcements telling consumers to go to a website for a list of shops willing to do this. I think it is a great opportunity for our members to be held out to the public as businesses that truly have their best interests at heart."
As soon as the initiative was announced, more than a dozen MSCRA member shops volunteered to provide free inspections---and that number has been growing daily. Mosley anticipates that around three dozen shops statewide will participate.
As always, MSCRA's focus is on protecting consumers.
Mosley noted, "They are our customers, and it's our responsibility to help them make good investments, plus we want to be good members of our communities."
Obtaining these free flood inspections prevents consumers from purchasing flood-damaged cars and protects them from ongoing expenses related to system failures caused by exposure to saltwater.
Mosley explained, "Although these cars are labeled as flood-damaged in the database, unscrupulous folks can clean the title, but when the insurance company reviews the database, they may refuse coverage, making it illegal to operate the vehicle on MS roadways."
Participating shops will utilize a flood damage checklist that includes inspecting more than 20 items to ensure the vehicle has not sustained water damage. This checklist will be available under the Consumer Information section of MSCRA's website. In addition to running a diagnostic scan, shops will check for rust, corrosion, water lines/moisture and other signs of water contamination under the car's hood, as well as on the interior and exterior of the vehicle.
MSCRA is pleased with members' enthusiasm to volunteer to conduct free flood inspections based on their professional opinions, and a local attorney even volunteered his services to draw up a liability release for these shops at no charge, following their example of community service.
Mosley pointed out, "Any time you take care of the customer, there may not be an immediate benefit, but they'll remember who helped them in the future."
John Morgan Hughes, Executive Director of MSCRA, added, "I believe this is a fantastic way to drive new business into your shop while providing a really fantastic service to consumers! As far as I know, we will be the first state in the country to provide this service through collision repair centers."
For shops and associations in other states interested in instituting a similar program, Mosley recommended contacting the DOI, Attorney General, or whoever is in charge of consumer affairs in that state.
"Tell them you're interested in helping their constituents, and I'm sure they'll welcome it. No one knows more than the people working on the cars,” Mosley said.
MSCRA is also currently working with the Mississippi Automobile Dealers Association to amend SB2207 to prevent title washing.
For more information about the association, visit www.mscra.net.