labels: automotive
Flooded out of their carsnews
10 August 2005

Mohini Bhatnagar reports on the plight of car owners of flood-affected vehicles

Mumbai''s worst ever floods led to a huge number of cars being damaged due to flooding. Some hopeful owners have lined up the cars at garages for repairs while others are planning to put them up for resale once the damages are assessed.

In all this the biggest beneficiaries in the long run are likely to be automobile companies and car repair garages.

Car repair garages because of the exponential increase in the amount of repair work they are receiving in Mumbai and automobile companies because several car owners with flood-damaged cars may opt to go in for new cars. Hyundai Motors, Toyota Kirloskar and Skoda Auto have even earned the goodwill of their buyers by offering spares and parts at a 50-per cent discount.

It is estimated that over 10,000 vehicles, of which a large number comprise mid size and luxury cars, have been waterlogged. Close to 200 Mercedes Benz, 50-55 Toyota Camrys, and 30-35 Skoda Superbs among others like any Honda Accords and Honda CRVs have been severely damaged.

Many of the cars had been submerged for around 24 hours, resulting in damages to the upholstery and electronics of the car. Imported luxury cars, for which spares are not easily available or are available at a premium, will be the worst off, especially since these cars have a large amount of electronic gadgetry—computer chips, sensors, power windows, power steering, Ac, CD player, et al. While it is unlikely that the floods will effect second hand car prices in the long run, the prices of the cars caught by the floods may be seriously affected.

According to Deepak Raheja, an insurance agent with New India Insurance, "At the moment it is impossible to assess the cost of repairing the cars because most cars are in a ''dead'' condition. The batteries and engine of these cars are full of water and the engines cannot be ignited. So assessing the damage will take some time."

According to him, garage owners are giving estimates of the cost of repairs, which may or may not be totally accurate.

However, a garage owner said while it may be difficult to accurately assess the damages in flooded cars, it is nevertheless true that these would suffer from extreme erosion in value, as the damages may not be completely repairable and would show in the cars'' performance in the long term.

Cars are being towed in with engine failures, wet interiors (carpets, door linings), damaged wiring and electrical fittings. Repairing engine failures cost between Rs25,000 to Rs40,000 depending on the make while replacing the interiors or electrical fittings can cost between Rs10,000 and Rs15, 000, again depending on the model.

According to Raheja, high-end cars like the Camry, Corolla Skoda Superb also have computer chips embedded in their dashboard plus sensors. If these have been damaged, the cars would not function unless they are replaced. In such cases the damages may be very high.

According to him most garages are advising car owners to wait for the cars to dry out before getting the damages assessed. They say while it may be possible to change the upholstery it is not possible to dry the entire insides of the seats and the only option is to wait.

Hence Mumbai''s hapless car owners have a lot to be upset about after the rains. While nearly all of them are angry at the complete breakdown of civic infrastructure and amenities, a sizable number is annoyed about being deprived of their personal transport, which is forcing them to commute by over-crowded buses and train, something they had cheerfully given up on acquiring their own vehicles.

Car companies are meanwhile readying for increased orders after the rains. They have good reason to smile as car sales had fallen for two straight months in a row in June and July, first due to floods in Gujarat and Maharashtra and then due to a hike in petrol prices last month.


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Flooded out of their cars