Sometimes it's very difficult to diagnose exactly what's wrong a vehicle. This was not one of those times.

By Jeff Sanford

Toronto, Ontario -- October 13, 2016 -- This week we look at rising premiums in BC and how they're linked to rising repair costs, a bald eagle that wound up where it shouldn't, the UK auto industry's woes and much, much more!

- British Columbia newspaper The Province ran an extremely interesting article this week. The piece warns that “high-tech features on new cars are expensive to repair and the costs are sending ICBC insurance premiums skyward.” The reporter tells the tale of a Tesla owner who had to write off his car after an accident. According to the company the aluminum body could not be fixed. The $100,000 car was written off, and sold for less than $10,000. ICBC had to cover the cost of replacement.

The conclusion by the writer was that more and more accidents, “ ... involving high-tech, luxury and exotic cars are driving up ICBC repair bills—and drivers’ insurance premiums.” According to the report, “The number of super-high-end exotic sports cars — priced at $150,000 or more — has nearly doubled over the past six years on the streets of Metro Vancouver, from 1,300 vehicles in 2009 to 2,500 in 2015.” Aston Martins, Bentleys, Lamborghinis and Maseratis are becoming more common. When these cars get in accidents it's costing ICBC, “...a fortune to repair or replace them...”

Getting down to real numbers the report finds that ICBC’s, “...vehicle-repair costs soared by $200 million last year—a 17-per-cent annual increase—to a shocking $1.36 billion.” The insurer blamed, “... skyrocketing repair bills as a key reason for a 4.9-per-cent rate hike in August, the fifth annual premium increase to whack B.C. drivers.”

The article goes on to note that, “’s not just street-racing playboys smacking up their expensive road toys that’s to blame ... Even moderately priced new vehicles are becoming increasingly expensive to repair because they’re loaded with complex technology.” Forward-collision warning systems, auto-braking, lane-departure warning and prevention systems, adaptive headlights, blind-spot detection...there are the new and common features in cars that are forcing repairs higher and higher. The article quotes ICBC chairman Barry Penner as saying that, “Drivers love the new technology, safety features and modern conveniences — but they come with a cost...There are definite safety enhancements from the new tech. But the collision rate is still up dramatically. It puts upward pressure on insurance premiums to repair these more complicated vehicles.”

The story ends up noting that a “...record 3.1 million cars on the road — and those cars becoming more technologically complex and expensive to repair every year — drivers should brace for more premium increases in the years to come.”

- As Hurricane Mathew moved up the east coast of the United States last week a bald eagle was blown into the grill of a car. Another driver noticed the bird and called 911. When police pulled the driver over it turned out the bird was fine. Rescuers named the bird Matthew.

- The CBC has a report about a tragic story stemming from changes to insurance regulations in Ontario. Collision Repair magazine has reported on the shifts occurring around catastrophic insurance coverage. Now it seems one young Ontarian is living through a nightmare as a result of these changes. According to the CBC, changes to auto insurance rules that,”...took effect the day an Ontario man suffered severe injuries in a crash has left his family on the verge of bankruptcy as he goes through an expensive and drawn-out rehabilitation process ... If the crash had occurred just 12 hours earlier, he'd have been eligible for up to $2 million in compensation, according to the personal injury lawyer representing the family ... Instead, he received $86,000.” According to the story, “Adam Bari, 34, was mistakenly pronounced dead by police when his motorcycle was T-boned on a rural road in Delhi, southwest of Hamilton, on June 1. Investigators concluded he was not at fault in the crash ... The father of twins survived with major injuries including brain trauma, multiple broken bones in his right arm, leg and hand, as well as internal organ damage.” According to his lawyer had he been injured the day before he would have qualified for catastrophic injury coverage. Now he does not qualify, and so the family is on the hook for medical bills, including an elevated bed that costs more than $4,000.

- Reuters news service reports that US traffic deaths jumped 10.4 percent in the first six months of 2016. This is  "crisis" level according to the US-based National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). According to the report, “NHTSA said road deaths in the first half totaled 17,775 and said the number was likely to be higher in the second half due to warmer weather and seasonal driving ... The jump in the first half of the year follows a spike in 2015, when road deaths rose 7.2 percent to 35,092, the highest full-year increase since 1966.”

The report goes on to note that NHTSA Administrator “Mark Rosekind called the rising deaths a 'crisis' and urged swift actions to reverse the rising trend after years of declines.” The story also seems to note the advances in automated vehicles: “The U.S. Transportation Department said it believes it 'is now increasingly likely that the vision of zero deaths and serious injuries can be achieved in the next 30 years.'” Overall, “...vehicle miles driven rose 3.3 percent in the first half of 2016. The fatality rate in the first half of the year has risen to its highest since 2009 ... Last year, total U.S. traffic crashes rose by 4 percent to 6.3 million, while people injured rose 4.5 percent to 2.44 million.”

- On a related note, the New York Times published a story this week pointing out that “Roadway fatalities are soaring at a rate not seen in 50 years, resulting from crashes, collisions and other incidents caused by drivers.” But the gist of the story is about a movement to refer to “car accidents” as simply, “car crashes.” According to the Times, it is the position of a “... growing number of safety advocates, including grass-roots groups, federal officials and state and local leaders across the country. They are campaigning to change a 100-year-old mentality that they say trivializes the single most common cause of traffic incidents: human error.”

- According to a report from the UK-based Automotive Management Online, the auto sector in that country is “hanging by a thread” as a result of the Brexit decision. According to the media report, “ ... production of up to 15 new models in the UK are,” now in danger as companies consider moving their plants and offices out of the UK and over to the EU to maintain access to that market. Worries around a ‘hard Brexit’ (a split that would see the UK completely disengage from the EU) is creating huge uncretainty and could “...deter carmakers from investing in their UK plants and see production move to Europe on models due to come in to production after 2020.”

- The Chinese market for autos continues to explode. Against all expectations sales of cars in what is now the world's single biggest car market jumped an amazing 29 percent last month. Tax breaks and dealer discounts helped fuel the jump. According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, “Foreign and domestic auto makers shipped 2.27 million cars—including sedans, crossovers and minivans—to dealers last month, the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers said Wednesday, up from 1.75 million in September 2015 ... So far this year, China’s new-car sales are at 16.75 million vehicles, a 15 percent increase from the same period a year earlier ... In response to four straight months of slow sales, China’s central government in October 2015 halved the 10 percent purchase tax on vehicles with 1.6-liter engines or smaller.”

- A New York Times article claims that those who wait until the very last minute to merge into a traffic lane negotiating construction where two lanes go down to one actually helps traffic flow better.

“It may sound like a breach of etiquette to wait until the last minute to merge, but traffic engineers and transportation departments in several states are promoting that exact move, sometimes with mixed results as they try to overcome drivers’ ingrained habits,” according to the story. “... known as the late merge—or zipper merge—for the way that cars taking turns getting into a lane resembles the teeth of a zipper coming together. The move, in which drivers in dense, slow-moving traffic remain in the lane that will be closed and then pull into the other lane at the merge point, helps ease congestion and drivers’ frustrations, experts said.”

Tom Vanderbilt, author of “Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us), notes that, “Merging late, that purported symbol of individual greed, actually makes things better for everyone.”

- The Globe & Mail ran a story that suggests “Electric vehicles could account for two-thirds of all cars on the road by 2030 in wealthy cities such as London and Singapore as a result of stricter emissions regulation, falling technology costs and more consumer interest ...”

The story goes on to note that the cost of a “lithium-ion battery pack fell 65 percent in 2015 to around $350 (US) a kilowatt hour, from $1,000/KWh in 2010, and is expected to fall below $100/KWh over the next decade...”

As a result, “In densely populated, high-income cities like London and Singapore … electric vehicles could represent as much as 60 percent of all vehicles on the road by 2030, the result of low-emission zones, consumer interest and favourable economics.”

- Speaking of electrics, the Guardian reports that, “The number of plug-in electric cars on the world’s roads is set to pass the landmark of 2m vehicles by the end of 2016, with industry observers saying the electric car revolution is finally underway.” According to the report, “A surging market in China is leading the way and Chinese-made models have pushed into the top five best-selling models.” The story also notes that, “...[the] electric vehicle market has made a number of false starts. Barack Obama predicted a million in the US alone by 2015 – the reality was a quarter of that, with people put off by short driving ranges and high prices. However, electric vehicle (EV) sales have now passed 1 percentof the whole auto market in Europe and China and experts believe a turning point has been passed.”

- Is a new car painting trend about to be born? Probably not. A reader on the autopaint subreddit on popular internet site posted this question: “I have a 2007 Tacoma. Paint is holding up fine, but was thinking it might look cool to have a paint-less truck. Is this possible? Would clear coats over the metal be sufficient in preventing rust? How difficult is it to remove paint from new-ish vehicles?” One of the answers: “There really are not many options for automotive grade clearcoats that adhere directly to metal, let alone have the corrosion resistance. Getting the paint off is one thing ... but preserving the metal will be a challenge.”


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