Friday Fun: Aggressiveness increases behind the wheel, inside Service King and the disturbing truth behind abandoned supercars

It's a sad sight, but it's increasingly common in the UAE. A report indicates that these high-end vehicles are being abandoned by expats fleeing criminal charges related to debts.

By Jeff Sanford

Toronto, Ontario — April 21, 2016 — This week we dip into a study that confirms some really, really obvious things, a profile on the folks behind US consolidator Service King and why supercars are being abandoned throughout the United Arab Emirates.

          An insurance company has done a study confirming what most know: More than half (57 percent) of adults act “more aggressively than normal when in the driver’s seat.” According to research from Churchill Car Insurance, 31 percent of respondents have sworn at strangers while they were driving, compared to only 12 percent when face-to-face. As well, “26 percent of motorists have shouted at others when behind the wheel, but only 12 percent have done so in person.” The report also found that “younger people are also more likely to be rash, with 62 percent of those aged 18 to 34 having acted aggressively, while 49 percent of those aged 55 and up did so.” The most common excuse given for aggressive behaviour in the car is to vent frustrations (50 percent), followed by “it’s a bad habit” (30 percent), and “It isn’t a conscious decision, I just get angry in the car” (29 percent). According to a report on the research, “There is a psychological basis for this, as drivers feel disassociated from their environment when in an enclosed space such as a car. This allows them to express anger and frustration towards other drivers, and even life in general, with low risk of conflict.”

          A Halifax woman who sent her car to a local dealership for repair was surprised to find out she was on the hook for damages. During a road test by a dealership employee, the car was in an accident that caused $14,000 in damage. Repairs were put through the driver’s insurance rather than through the insurance policy on the dealership. The driver is angry she had to pay a $500 deductible. The dealership dsyd it was a mistake. Recent changes in Nova Scotia insurance law that sees all accidents go “through a damaged car owner’s insurance, even when it is the other driver’s fault,” contributed to the situation.

          A Dallas newspaper has published a great profile of the people behind Service King, one of the big US consolidators. The story of how the modern, massive chain grew out of a couple of small shops in Dallas in the 1980s will be interesting to anyone wondering how the big consolidators came to be. Check it out here.

          The latest twist to driving-based apps: A new company will now allow Canadians to rent out their personal vehicle to others through their smartphones. “It’s an entirely new way for you to start making money out of your car,” a company executive explained to a CBC reporter. The company’s name is Turo. It debuted in the US as RelayRides in 2009 and now operates in more than 2,500 cities. Car owners register their vehicle on the site. The app determines the “rental cost of available vehicles each day based on data like the car’s market value, location and time of year,” according to the report. “Provincially regulated insurance rules have made a seamless transition north of the border difficult,” according to the report. Nevertheless, Turo has partnered with Intact Financial Corporation and Belairdirect to provide insurance for Canadian clients. Claims that arise from a Turo car rental “have no impact on the owner’s personal insurance,” Stephanie Sorensen, Director of Communications for Intact, was quoted as saying.

          An executive of the Japanese company busted for rigging the price of auto body sealant has plead guilty to price rigging in the US. The former president of a US joint venture of Nishikawa Rubber Co. lodged a guilty plea on Wednesday to fixing the prices of weather stripping and other auto body sealing products and will serve eighteen months in prison. Keiji Kyomoto had been indicted in October 2015 by the US Department of Justice for “working with two other people to rig bids for auto body sealing products for cars made in the United States.” Kyomoto will also pay a $20,000 fine.

          The German emissions scandal has spread to Japan. This week reports have emerged that Mitsubishi also cheated on emissions tests similar to the way VW did. Mitsubishi issued a statement saying the company discovered “data relating to fuel consumption of certain Japanese models had been misrepresented.” According to a report, the statement went on to express “deep apologies” for the “improper conduct” and said the firm would investigate “objectively and thoroughly.” Slightly modified statements were issued in other countries. The Japanese government has since raided the offices of Mitsubishi and considers the matter a “serious” one. An analyst commenting on the incident said it could be the case that there is “something endemic within the car industry,” and that emissions levels are now so demanding it is almost impossible for car companies manufacturing hydrocarbon-powered engines to fulfil the regulations. That is, the industry is hitting a wall of sorts in terms of the technical ability to reduce emissions. The analyst wondered if emissions levels were now “difficult to achieve” and that it could be the case that “many more car manufacturers were involved in similar practices.”

          Reservations for Tesla’s recently unveiled, mainstream electric car, the Model 3, continue to climb. Reservations for the car are now approaching 400,000 just two weeks after the car was announced.

          BAIC BJEV, a leading “new energy automaker” in China, signed a strategic cooperation agreement for Sino-German Automotive Light Weighting Technology with Dresden University of Technology (TUD). At the ceremony, the two sides also entered into a letter of intent on the establishment of Sino-German Automotive Light Weighting Technology Engineering Center Co., that will see the organizations jointly develop finished cars “made of lightweight multi-materials, using new lightweight design and material application techniques.” Using carbon and aluminum the organization will develop a light-weighting platform named MMSF (Multi-Material Space Frame) that will see body weight reduced by up to 45 percent. No word yet on whether the cars will come to Canada.

          Two major auto industry groups this week asked major insurance firms to help inform consumers about safety recalls. The Association of Global Automakers and the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers (AAM) sent letters to the heads of major insurance companies, asking them to encourage their customers to get necessary repairs done on recalled vehicles according to a Reuters report. State Farm, Liberty Mutual, Geico, Progressive and Nationwide were among the insurance firms contacted by the trade groups. According to the report the challenge of getting car owners to repair open recalls is significant: Roughly a quarter of all cars never receive the necessary repairs, according to Reuters.

          Fortune magazine report that in the build up to the Great Recession of 2008 automakers “pulled back sharply on aggressive leasing deals and other financial incentives that had artificially increased their sales for years.” Today, with carmakers “under pressure to maintain last year’s record numbers, they are once again turning to the same tactics that got them into trouble a decade ago,” according to Fortune. “Automakers are offering increasing discounts on economy cars and luxury models alike, relying more on sales to fleets like rental-car companies and bloating dealers’ inventories. More and more auto loans are being stretched out over longer periods of time … at the same time, automakers have cranked up leasing to record levels. In March, leasing accounted for 31.3 percent of all new-car transactions, a record that exceeds the pre-recession levels,” according to Edmunds.com.

          With the plunge in the price of oil, abandoned luxury cars have been popping up around the UAE. Under Sharia law those unable to repay debts are in serious trouble. Non-payment of debts is actually a criminal offence throughout most of the UAE. Many of the abandoned super cars are thought to have been left by foreigners who had been working in the emirate but decided to leave town when they found themselves deeply in debt in the wake of the plunge in oil prices.

          Speculation is mounting that Apple has decided to base the group building its car in Berlin. This would make sense. It’s been rumoured Apple is looking at the German carmakers to partner with as a way of building an Apple car. The German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) on Monday reported that Apple has set up a secret lab in the capital to work on the project and has between 15 and 20 “high-fliers from the German car industry” working on the project.

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