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

Herald Sun - Motoring - - News -

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.

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