?It is estimated that over 2,000 flood damaged cars were imported into Ghana between October, 2012 and June, 2013?
Ghanaians have insatiable demand for cars. Car dealers are setting up garages at any convenient roadside, possibly because of the high demand for used cars by middle and lower-middle income earners. But, how many of these buyers know how to avoid flood damaged cars particularly from America which has become a cheap source of import for dealers.
Hurricane Sandy, the super storm that hit the east coast of the United States in 2012 submerged thousands of vehicles. Most of these flooded vehicles have become ?scrap? in the US attracting used car dealers in Africa to import and repair them for sale, with no disclosure of the cars? soggy history to unsuspecting buyers.
?Nowadays, a lot of the ?water cars? are in town but people don?t know when buying them?, Frank Appiah, an auto electrician at King of Kings shop at Santa Maria, a suburb in Accra, disclosed in an interview to find out how reliable hurricane damaged cars imported to Ghana can still be useful after repairs.
Frank Appiah said this year his shop has taken delivery of 30 cars from the port imported from America. ?The cars are put on loaders straight from the harbor to the shop. We work hard to start some of the cars and those that are not able to start after thorough work done, are sold for spare parts?, he remarked.
Mercedes Benz C300, Hummer 3, Nissan Rogue ,Toyota Corolla, Toyota Matrix, Toyota Camry, Ford Focus, Hyundai Tucson were some range of flood damaged cars spotted at the mechanic?s shop waiting to be repaired and showcase on the market.
The King of Kings shop is among the few mechanic shops in Accra highly patronized by car importers because of their skills in using digital electronic machines to detect faults on cars with damaged electrical systems, as well as re-programming such faulty systems in order to start a car.
Another auto-mechanic shop located at Achimota (also in Accra), Friends Auto Shop, is a popular one-stop shop for hurricane damaged car importers. Five cars were spotted there.
It is estimated that over 2,000 flood damaged cars were imported into Ghana between October, 2012 and June, 2013, hinted Charles York, a car dealer who imports second-hand vehicles from the US.
A senior assistant at the Friends Auto Shop, Maxwell Brobbey said: ?Even though we are able to detect faults to start most of the cars despite the salty sea water, new faults and wire breakages will reoccur as a result of the contact with the sea water.
?Accident or crashed cars when repaired with new spare parts are more guaranteed against hidden problems than the ?water cars?, because the sea water which has submerged the whole car, makes the faults to reoccur.?
Major repair works on ?water cars? are made on control boards, fuse boards, engines and door locks. Some of the spare parts have to be imported abroad in order to get the car back on the road, while other cars which are completely ruined by the flood will never start even after thorough fault check on them.
?It?s pure luck when buying these cars from our partners?, car importer Charles York disclosed.
?Salt water destroys cars?, he admitted. ?And even when repaired, they can be unsafe. But the high demand for cars in Ghana makes it good business to import, and also we trust our mechanics here to fix the cars to make them road worthy?, he assured.
Flood damaged cars are sold briskly in US, for prices like $2,000, $5,000, $3,000 (Gh?4, 000, Gh?10, 000, Gh?6, 000). Some are also dismantle for their parts, like wheels and fenders.
Safety and value for money
According to the US Insurance Crime Bureau (an organization that investigates insurance fraud and vehicle theft),?over 230,000 cars were damaged by Hurricane Sandy, predominantly by the ocean water that surged into seaside communities, filling engines and interiors of cars with sand and corrosive saline.?
Past records of hurricane damaged cars at the Insurance Crime Bureau indicate that Hurricane Floyd in 1999 damaged 75,000 vehicles. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Rita and Hurricane Wilma claimed more than 600,000 cars.
The US agency has noted that: ?It?s not illegal to sell a car that has been flooded. What is illegal is selling a car that had significant flood damage without disclosing the damage.?
In America, there has been a campaign targeted at buyers to seek sound advice, which applies to any used car purchase. This includes a trusted mechanic to check Vehicle History Report. Personally, prospective buyers can also use the web site: www.inspectmyride.com, in order to give the car a thorough inspection and to identify things that need fixing.
On the contrary, used car buyers in Ghana have little or no idea that they have to inspect a car for its flood damaged record. Car dealers are not obliged to give disclosures of vehicle history which could protect buyers from purchasing a car that was somebody?s used ?tea bag?.
The law in Ghana is strict on importing over-aged cars which attracts heavy import duty penalties. Over-aged cars are those that are over 10 years after date of manufacture. Notably, most of the flood cars are not over-aged as per the import guidelines, meanwhile their condition after repair leaves much to be desired as a result of the re-occurring faults confirmed by auto-mechanics interviewed.
Inspection of vehicles in Ghana for their roadworthiness is a legal requirement. However, there are many vehicle owners who don?t go through the vigorous vehicle testing and inspection ? due to the poor condition of their vehicles ? but are able to pay their way to get approval for road worthy certificates.
?93% of vehicles that come for inspections here pass the test for roadworthiness?, said Lee Barber, General Manager of BIVAC International Ghana Limited, a vehicle inspection station located at Kuntuse in Accra.
The multi-function inspection station has the capacity to inspect 1000 vehicles a day. They conduct a comprehensive 119 checks on each vehicle, then a report is forwarded to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA), the state agency with the oversight responsibility.
?We can check to give the true condition of the [flood] cars. Our machines are fully automated?, assured Lee Barber.
He, however, submitted that a vehicle which has been submerged in sea water will pass the DVLA test for inspection when the owner ?cleans? and repairs the vehicle for inspection. But, cautioned that such a vehicle would begin to develop early rusting, wiring and other defects that will shorten its life span.
The DVLA in 2012 recorded 25,595 vehicles, for failing various road worthy inspections. The number is out of a national total of 159,793 vehicles registered in the year under review.
?In Ghana, it is not a requirement to provide the history of a used car to a prospective buyer?, stated George Ackom, Director for Vehicle Inspection and Registration at the DVLA.
He maintained that their mandate as an authority is to inspect the physical condition of each car as presented and declare whether it is roadworthy or not.
Source: Philip Forson