Written off as a bad idea?
More needs to be done to protect unsuspecting buyers from ending up with patched-up wrecks, writes NEIL McDONALD
ALEADING smash repair expert has renewed calls for tougher penalties on rogue smash repairers. Melbourne-based repairer Gerry Raleigh is also urging the Victorian Government to ban all vehicle wrecks that have been deemed ‘‘repairable’’ write-offs.
By doing so Raleigh believes unsuspecting buyers will be spared the problem of buying patched-up wrecks that are unroadworthy.
Banning repairable write-offs will also help prevent unscrupulous backyard repairers from rebirthing cars. His views are gaining traction within some sections of the NSW and Victorian police, NSW Motor Traders’ Association, National Motor Vehicle Theft Reduction Council and the smash-repair industry.
But the insurance industry’s peak body, the Insurance Council of Australia, stopped short of adding its weight to a ban at a recent Sydney workshop.
Instead, the council wants a national reform process based on greater enforcement of repairers, more safety checks and more accessible data on crashed vehicles.
Raleigh says bureaucracy is getting in the way of any serious reform.
He says some insurance companies classify statutory write-offs as repairable vehicles to help cut their financial losses.
In some cases car thieves use these vehicles to rebirth stolen vehicles.
The national Written-off Vehicle Register database, which is designed to track crashed vehicles, has helped stamp out some practices, but rebirthing remains a problem, he says.
NSW has instituted new special car rebirthing legislation and Raleigh wants similar laws in Victoria.
Some backyard repairers are getting around the national database and repairing and rebirthing wrecked vehicles that end up in other states to be resold, he says.
‘‘Nobody seems to be getting anywhere with this,’’ Raleigh says.
‘‘I want it back on the agenda.’’
Raleigh is a 30-year veteran of the industry and says up to 20 per cent of repairable writeoffs are incorrectly categorised as such.
His views have gained some support from the chief executive of the Victorian Automobile Chamber of Commerce, David Purchase, who says the register has helped reduce the incidence of stolen vehicles being used to ‘‘re-identify’’ smashed and written-off vehicles.
‘‘However . . . we must move quickly to prevent opportunists from exploiting loopholes,’’ he says.
Purchase acknowledges there needs to be more co-operation between police, registration authorities and consumer protection agencies.
Raleigh says removing unsafe repaired cars from the road will help shut down rebirthing.
‘‘It will also limit the number of unqualified backyard repairers and prevent car dealers being stuck with vehicles that have been written off and repaired,’’ he says.
Motor Vehicle Theft Reduction Council statistics show that 104,000 vehicles a year are statutory and repairable write-offs.
Of those 80,000 a year are repairable and end up back on the road.