By Jeff Sanford
Toronto, Ontario -- February 23, 2017 -- This week’s edition of Friday Fun takes a look at an airborne SUV, how smartphones are driving up insurance rates, one dedicated person who gives it their all when it comes to restoring vintage Hot Wheels and much, much more!
- A routine trip to the car wash went horribly wrong for a Brampton,Ontario couple last week. According to a report by CityNews, the driver had taken a Ford Expedition to the “Super Suds Car Wash” for a VIP Super Clean wash. As the report notes, “After the SUV went through the car wash on a conveyor belt, an employee was supposed to shine the tires. He got into the car and then floored the gas pedal instead of the brake, propelling the vehicle through a snow bank and chain-link fence. It then launched off a five-foot retaining wall into the air and took out a tree before hitting the road and crashing into a stone wall.”
According to the owner, who witnessed the accident, it was “like a scene out of ‘The Dukes of Hazzard.’” The car was trashed. Both airbags deployed. Two doors were fused shut. The rear tires popped when the car hit the road, and fluids were leaking. The child car seats were also damaged. “When you take your car to the car wash, it shouldn’t come out the other end like this,” the owner was quoted as saying. A manager of the car wash was quoted as saying the, “... employee’s job was only to wipe down vehicles. He never had clearance to get behind the wheel because he doesn’t have a driver’s licence.” The attendant who crashed the vehicle has been suspended. According to the story, “Management is still deciding whether he will continue to work there.”
- Toronto commuters were denied service at one of the city's busiest stations Thursday morning. According to a report by the Toronto Star, “A 21-year-old is facing a hefty fine after he drove down into the streetcar tunnel at Union Station ... and got stuck.” According to the report, around 4 a.m., the driver of a Mitsubishi Outlander, “... drove down into the Union Loop tunnel, which is designated exclusively for streetcars. After travelling close to one kilometre, the vehicle was disabled when the raised tracks blew two of the SUV’s tires and destroyed the rims.”
According to the report, the driver claims he was just following his GPS when he ended up in the tunnel. Streetcars were forced to turn back for several hours and the driver took home a $425 fine for illegal entry. TTC spokesperson Brad Ross was quoted as saying, “It's unusual in that the car made its way all the way up to Union Station without getting caught up in that track that is raised. The undercarriage, a flat tire, these types of things typically happen much sooner when we have had these occurrences in the past.” Yeah, this isn’t the first time this has happened. According to Ross, another vehicle did the same thing last April.
- The Toronto Police Service (TPS) borrowed a hearse recently as part of a plan to identify and pull over distracted drivers by using a vehicle other than a police car. TPS have also been putting officers equipped with a radio on buses. The officers on the bus scan traffic for drivers texting or talking while driving and then notify nearby officers who then pull the driver over.
- A report in the Wall Street Journal this week notes that car insurance premiums in the US are rising, primarily as a result of distracted driving. According to the report, “Drivers in the U.S. are ... becoming more dangerous, and insurance premiums are rising as a result. Apparently, the reason behind this is smartphones ... The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) claims that in 2015, the number of 'deadly;' road accidents rose 7.2%.” As a result, “Auto insurance rates are proportionally and steadily increasing, while the number of traffic accidents in America is also on the rise. The Insurance Information Institute’s estimates indicate that auto insurance costs have risen every year since 2009 ... [and] they will continue to increase despite the growing prominence of vehicles with anti-collision technology.”
- Interesting idea: In his recent State of the City address, Detroit’s Mayor Mike Duggan, “... urged the Republican-controlled state House to abandon an income tax cut and instead focus on policies that would slash the high cost of Michigan vehicle insurance,” according to a story in Crain's Business Detroit. Lowering the income tax rate will save workers “a couple hundred bucks,” Duggan says. “If you solve the car insurance issue, you’ll put three or four times that back in people’s pockets and you won’t hurt any state services.”
- Auto restoration on a smaller scale. An online personality known as “baremetalHW” on YouTube is attracting fans for his is auto restoration work on ... old Hot Wheels toy cars. The video maker takes beaten up die cast replicas and restores them to their past glory. He takes the cars apart, gives the metal pieces an electrolyte bath to remove the oxidation and rust, polishes the metal, works out imperfections and, “... consults a guide to make sure he uses an acceptable paint combination ... After choosing and applying the paint, the restorer uses some rubbing compound to help bring back some of the clarity to the plastic windows, then the whole things gets reassembled ...” Sounds kind of familiar! You can check out his work in the video below.
- Chief executives of 18 different automakers have urged President Donald Trump to, “... revisit a decision by the Obama administration to lock in vehicle fuel efficiency rules through 2025.” A letter sent to Trump and signed by the chief executives of General Motors, Ford, FCA NV and top North American executives at Toyota, Volkswagen, Honda, Hyundai, Nissan and others urged Trump to reverse the decision, “... warning thousands of jobs could be at risk.”
This past January the US Environmental Protection Agency finalized a decision that, “... the landmark fuel efficiency rules instituted by then President Barack Obama should be locked in through 2025, a bid to maintain a key part of his administration’s climate legacy.” Now the automakers hope Trump will reopen the issue. They argue the new fuel efficiency standards could, “... impose significant costs and are out of step with consumer preferences ... The letter warned the rules could 'threaten future production levels, putting hundreds of thousands and perhaps as many as a million jobs at risk'.”
- It was announced last week that major parts distributor LKQ had purchased on autobody shop. Is the publicly-traded parts giant getting in on the consolidation craze in the collision repair sector? No, according to a story on Repairer Driven News. The report notes that the single store acquisition was an “exception,” and was made to house an existing “LKQ speciality shop.” LKQ officials confirmed last Monday the company “does not intend” to buy any other autobody shops. LKQ’s Joseph Boutross was quoted as saying the companywould stay focused on auto parts. “LKQ does not own any body shops (other than this one exception), and LKQ does not intend on acquiring any others; our focus remains parts distribution,” according to the report.
- A flurry of new firms have popped up that are racing to sell cars online. Carvana, Shift and Vroom are three of the names in this new sector. AutoNation, a chain of traditional brick-and-mortar dealerships in the US is also said to be looking at, “online sales and kiosks with CarSaver and Wal-Mart.”
- Police in Salem, Oregon are running an innovative program in conjunction with Advance Auto Parts. According to a local newspaper report, “If you get pulled over by Oregon State Police for a minor equipment violation, you may get a discount on auto parts so you can fix the problem ... troopers will be offering drivers who get stopped for a minor equipment violation vouchers that can be used for discounts at participating Advance Auto Parts or Carquest Auto Parts.”
The story quoted a police spokesperson as saying, “When an OSP Trooper stops a vehicle for an equipment violation, they understand some individuals defer maintenance on their automobile to pay for other necessities instead, such as groceries and rent. The Car Care Program allows us in a small way to assist individuals and families with improving the safety of their vehicle and our highways. Every OSP Trooper understands they can influence the trajectory of a person’s life, which is why ‘Compassion’ is a core value of our agency.” OSP began distributing the vouchers state-wide on February 21.
- Last year electric car sales in the United States shot up by 37 percent according to a report from Forbes business magazine. The US market now has, “... over 30 battery-powered and plug-in hybrid offerings, with over 159,139 vehicles in the U.S. market right now. It’s the 70 percent year-over-year increase in monthly sales, which helped build the momentum to stronger overall sales.” According to the story the five models that sold at least 10,000 units in 2016 are the Tesla Model X, Tesla Model S, Nissan Leaf, Chevrolet Volt and Ford Fusion Energi.
- Jacqueline Charlesworth can't get rid of the VW she no longer wants now that she knows it’s emitting more pollution than she thought. VW has announced a settlement for doctoring its emissions testing in 2015. “But a legal loophole means [Charlesworth] is left out of two massive class action lawsuits against the car manufacturer,” according to a media report. Her case is a lesson in the details of cross-border car sales. “Charlesworth, who lives in the GTA, isn't eligible for the Canadian lawsuit because her car has an American VIN. And she's not eligible to be part of the American lawsuit because her car was registered in Canada.” Charlesworth was quoted as saying, "I'm really stuck in between two worlds.” She bought her used Volkswagen Jetta from a dealer in Mississauga, Ont., in July 2015 and, “...didn't realize that she had purchased an American model,” according to the story. Two months later Volkswagen admitted it had fitted many of its vehicles with software to fool emissions testers. According to the story about 15 to 20 people in Canada are in a similar predicament and can't access the cash being offered as a result of the class action settlements.