Friday Fun: World’s most distracted driver and rising oil prices

Mike Vargas, the owner of East Coast Customs Automotive Playground, had a huge mural dedicated to the clean-up of Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria painted on one of the walls.

Toronto, Ontario — November 17, 2017 — In this week’s edition of Friday Fun, the world’s most distracted driver, a dodgy dent puller, the possibility of $200 a barrel oil and much, much more.

New Brunswick drivers are about to receive higher bills for car insurance. The new rates could arrive as early as next week. The increase came after hearings at the New Brunswick Insurance Board. According to a CBC report, the rise in rates comes as insurance companies begin to, “… respond more aggressively to escalating accident claims.” The report goes on to say that, “New Brunswick’s largest auto insurer, Wawanesa, has already been approved for its largest premium increase in more than a decade—an average seven percent hike on more than 92,000 privately owned vehicles… The company has indicated 42 percent of its policy holders will be receiving higher increases of between 10 and 15 percent effective January 1st.”

According to the story, “Wawanesa presented evidence over the summer and fall, showing it has been losing money in New Brunswick. It claimed it requires an average 32 percent rate increase to return to full profitability, but was concerned about shocking New Brunswick customers with a change that severe. The insurance board agreed.” A quote from the story: “The panel is satisfied that [Wawanesa] has justifiable business reasons for these decisions.”

It is thought that New Brunswick enjoys Canada’s lowest auto insurance rates. The CBC story included stats suggesting that, “In 2016 the average vehicle cost $775 to insure—46 percent less than rates in Ontario.” Claims are said to be up a remarkable $90.5 million, 39 percent, between 2012 and 2016. Several of the companies involved in the hearings have indicated their profit margins in the province have, “disappeared.”

The most distracted driver ever was pulled over this week in Vancouver. The Terrace Standard newspaper reports that the driver was caught driving with two electronic devices strapped to the steering wheel. According to the story, “Vancouver police said one of their traffic officers pulled a man over… at around noon Wednesday, after spotting him wearing headphones…. [An] officer approached the car and saw a phone attached to the steering wheel with a piece of string, and a tablet wedged between the wheel and the phone…. the cop decided to have a ‘lengthy conversation about road safety,’ police said.” Amazing.

Last year the first baby boomers began turning 65. The first social security cheques began to be handed out to the second largest demographic in the United States. There are now 10,000 people a day applying for old age benefits in the U.S. as the boomers begin to retire. Is it any surprise then that the RV industry is booming? A story in the Auto Trade Press last week noted, “It’s estimated that shipments of motor homes will reach almost half a million units in 2017, the highest annual total since the data has been collected, and a 9.6 percent increase from the number shipped last calendar year.” The stats come from the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association. According to that organization, RV shipments will be even higher in 2018.

Collision Repair magazine ran a feature on an Alberta-based collision repair facility that focuses on RVs. The story can be found here:

Larry Lantz, President of the Trillium Automobile Dealers Association (TADA), is a new-car dealer in Hanover, Ontario. In his role as head of TADA he recently had a column published in a major Canadian newspaper. The column discussed the improved appeal of jobs in the auto service sector for females. According to Lutz, “For the past two decades, the number of women working and rising through the ranks at registered car dealerships across the province has been increasing… Decades ago, only a small percentage of women worked at dealerships, mostly in clerical, finance or administrative positions.” But according to Lantz, in recent years, women have broken through various glass ceilings and are, “… excelling in all areas of automotive dealerships—as technicians, salespeople, sales managers, human resources specialists, service advisers, controllers, fixed operations managers, dealer principals and owners.”

Luntz goes on to say that women have been entering the retail car industry in greater numbers for several reasons. “First, dealerships are eager to attract skilled workers in all areas, regardless of gender. Female salespeople are especially in demand, and most dealerships would leap at the chance to hire a qualified female salesperson… Secondly, the advanced design and architecture of today’s facilities have created a more comfortable, welcoming and professional work environment than dealerships of a generation ago,” according to the column.

Could oil prices rise in 2018? This is a scenario being discussed more often these days. A Saudi-Iranian war is increasingly possible. Yemeni rebels launched a missile at a Saudi airport near Riyadh. The Saudi-led military coalition called the attack a “Blatant military aggression by the Iranian regime.” Almost 20 percent of the world’s oil supply through the Strait of Hormuz, which connects the Persian Gulf to global markets. Only 55 kilometers wide at its narrowest, Iran has fast attack boats along the coast. In the 2006 war between Hezbollah and Israel a tk boat was taken out with a C-tk missile, a reminder that Iran and its proxies have that ability. According to one report, “If insurers perceive an imminent risk of attack on a tanker in the region, they would either suspend insurance or charge exorbitant rates for coverage. Under the circumstances, vessel owners could opt to wait out the hostilities rather than risk their tankers… The impact of such a closure on the global economy would be severe and immediate. A loss of 20 percent of the world’s oil supply would push oil prices into the $200 / barrel range according to a report from Princeton Energy Advisors.

A resident of Chula Vista California was treated to a lovely surprise this week when he arrived at a local autobody shop to find his car repaired after a fly-by-night dent puller had trashed his vehicle. The man’s story ended up on local television news. According to the reporter, “A man showed up at his San Carlos home and offered to fix a dent in the back of his car for $275. When the work began, the costs nearly tripled. The dent never got fixed, and the man ended up causing more damage before taking off with [the victim’s] check, which he stopped.” Police suggested the scammer was probably targeting seniors with disability plates.

Denise Marquez, who had recently sold Marquez Auto Body, a 55-year-old shop started by her parents, saw the story and spurred into action. She is no longer taking clients, but, as Marquez was quoted as saying, “Seeing him being taken advantage of makes me very angry. I wanted to help. I want him to see the legacy of my mom and dad. I just felt really bad and needed to help him.” Marquez tracked down the victim and offered to help. She covered the cost of a new bumper and the $2,000 repair bill. “There’s not just bad people but a lot of good people. She’s one of the good people on this earth,” the 84-year-old vehicle owner was quoted as saying. “It’s unbelievable. I’m so appreciative.”

The New York Times recently ran a story on a collision repair centre in the Bronx. Mike Vargas, the owner of East Coast Customs Automotive Playground, had a huge mural dedicated to the clean-up of Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria painted on one of the walls. The huge painting was a tribute to family he has on the island. Suggestive of the famous photograph, “Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima,” the mural, “… depicts hard-hatted workers lifting a flag-topped utility pole over a devastated landscape.” According to the story, “Within days of Hurricane Maria, he and a group of local bodyshop owners started collecting water and emergency supplies, which they shipped to the island in two cargo containers. ‘It shows us rebuilding and not giving up. The Puerto Rican flag is still waving. Even though the island has been obliterated, we’re still here’.”

A recent car auction seems to have set a new price record. A 104-year-old Peugeot considered the “father of all race cars” sold for a world record £5.5 million (about $9,250,000 Canadian). According to the report, “Peugeot is best known for building affordable family cars, but the 1913 two-seat L45 model is one of the most important cars in motorsport history… It was built at a time the France was at the centre of the car industry, boasting more serious manufacturers than the rest of the world combined.”

A native Russian speaker filmed a 20 video that shows him repairing a severely damaged Mercedes Series 7. This car would likely be a write off in most cases. But he takes on the challenge, and takes viewers through every step. Impressive stuff. The video can be watched here:

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