By Jeff Sanford
Toronto, Ontario -- March 23, 2017 -- This week’s edition of Friday Fun takes another look at some of the bizarre and unusual news from the automotive world in the last week. This time we dig into a “spectacular collision” caught on video in Toronto, Porsche’s big bonus for every employee, how criminal gangs are customizing cars to smuggle drugs and much, much more!
- It looks like there’s going to be some dent work to do in St. John’s, Newfoundland. Police arrested a man in the city after he “beat up a parked vehicle with a hammer.” According to a report from the CBC, “Police were called to Bond Street around 8:30 p.m., and were told by witnesses that someone had used a carpenter's hammer to hit a parked vehicle, causing extensive damage ... Officers found the vehicle with a broken side window and with multiple dents that appeared to be from a hammer.” A 20-year-old St. John's man was arrested.
- Crooks across the country are dedicated to providing the industry with work, apparently. Police in Brampton say that the driver of a vehicle they were trying to pull over intentionally struck the cruiser that was conducting the stop. According to a report police were attempting a tandem stop, “... wherein one cruiser pulls up behind a moving vehicle and another pulls in front of it ... Police say that’s when the vehicle intentionally made contact with one of the cruisers and then fled the scene.” Police opted not to pursue the vehicle at that point.
- Another report from the Greater Toronto Area area has police warning motorists to obey the rules of the road following a “spectacular collision” caught on video and posted on social media. Police confirm the crash happened on the southbound Don Valley Parkway March 21 around 11 a.m. According to a media report a vehicle lost control, crashed into the centre median and spun out into traffic. Sgt. Brett Moore of Toronto Traffic Services told Global News that, “... what stood out for me, is the amount of damage not just to the vehicle, but to the infrastructure. The roads, the median. So that would have closed the highway for some time which causes economic loss, people late for work, that type of stuff ... When people are not doing the right thing, speeding, going too fast, distracted, not wearing their seatbelt, a lot of those things lead to these crashes that we investigate all the time.”
You can check out the video in the player below.
- Porsche employees will enjoy a huge bonus this year as the company celebrates one of its best financial years ever. According to a story in the auto trade press, “Every employee in Germany receives 9,111 euros as a special payment.” The bonus will be given to 21,000 employees, “... whether it be an engineer, employees at the production line, Wachmann, canteen staff or cleaning woman,” according to the report. Last year was the best year of its history for Porsche, with profitability rising by about 10 percent.
- Last week, Friday Fun reported on the dismal response of emergency personnel to a huge accident in Quebec. More than 300 people were trapped for over 12 hours on a highway before responders acted. One week later it seems that the “Highway 13” incident is rapidly “... blowing up into a major political issue in Quebec.”
According to media reports, Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard has announced he will bring in an expert in crisis management to ensure such a “snowstorm foul-up” doesn’t happen again. Public Security Minister Martin Coiteux and Transport Minister Laurent Lessard had to go before the media to defend themselves from accusations of “bungling” the disaster. Lawyers applied Thursday for a class action lawsuit against the Quebec government and City of Montreal, with plaintiffs seeking $2,000 for each of about 500 people trapped on the highway. Motorists had to spend the night in their vehicles.
The ministers claim they were given no information about the people stuck on the highway. Critics say news of the disaster was being broadcast on the radio, and so someone should have known what was happening. Opposition politicians noted the event, “... was all over the news.” According to one media report, “Lessard and Coiteux have argued all along they were kept in the dark about the calamity happening ...” As well, a “... senior-ranking provincial police officer has been put on administrative duty and a truck driver is facing criminal charges as the Sûreté du Québec seeks to lay blame for the traffic jam that left hundreds stranded overnight last week ... The SQ announced Sunday evening that it has put a second senior member of the force on desk duty amid an internal review of its response to the traffic jam ...”
- Alberta used car sales have come in for criticism after a “W5 hidden camera investigation” uncovered a “system-wide problem with the industry and proof the regulator needs to improve,” according to an an Alberta government minister. A report says the minister, Stephanie McLean, is, “... concerned that a hidden camera survey of car dealerships found a majority failed to follow Alberta consumer protection law.” According to the minister, “It’s a gong show. You can quote me on that.”
A television station and a consumer watchdog group, the Automobile Protection Association, tested 20 dealerships in the Calgary area. Seventeen out of 20 failed, and of those that failed, 11 were repeat offenders. According to the report, “The violations included hundreds of dollars in unadvertised fees – illegal under Alberta’s Fair Trading Act – and representing certain cars as new, even though they had been driven for thousands of kilometers ... W5’s hidden cameras recorded a salesperson in a dealership in Calgary trying to charge a $686 'documentation' fee.” The fee is just $6.25.
- Apparently, one effect of the Great Recession of 2008 is a dearth of used cars on lots across the United States. According to a report by the Detroit News, “When the auto industry imploded in 2009, the number of vehicles it produced fell sharply, with the decline lasting more than two years. Fast forward to 2017 and there are fewer cars from those recession model years available to budget-minded buyers in the used car market.” An analyst with auto consultancy Edmunds is quoted as saying, “There’s a big-time shortage because of that lack of new car sales ...” At the same time, “... explosive growth in the leasing of new cars has sent even more upheaval into the market, as a flood of 1-, 2- and 3-year-old cars come back off lease and end up on dealership lots.” At the same time as there were fewer sales of new cars during the recession, the “... federal government’s Cash for Clunkers program pulled nearly 700,000 cars out of the nation’s fleet in late 2009.”
- A report from the UK suggest that, “Organised crime gangs are customising cars and lorries on an 'industrial scale' to smuggle millions of pounds worth of drugs into Britain ... Scotland Yard has revealed that garages ‘like factories’ have been set up around Europe to install secret compartments in vehicles to hide wads of cash and class A drugs ... The warning comes as a trafficker is facing jail for smuggling 30 kilos of cocaine with a street value of £3.6 million to London in a custom-made secret cache in the roof of his Bentley Flying Spur....Drug dealer Florentino Gonzales, 48, regularly smuggled cocaine in a special compartment in his £140,000 Bentley which he drove from Belgium to Britain through the Eurotunnel.”
So-called “traps” built into cars have been common in North America for some time. The secret compartments can be so complex that they only open up when a certain sequence of actions are followed, say, turning on the windshield wiper, then the left signal, followed by the radio. A couple of years ago British Columbia passed the Armoured Vehicle and Aftermarket Compartment Control Act, which, “... allows for fines up to $10,000 and six months in jail for people convicted of driving an armoured vehicle or having a secret compartment in their vehicle.”
- Consumer Reports has compiled a list of the worst cars to be released in 2017. Making that list are the following:
Lowest-Rated Subcompact Car: Mitsubishi Mirage
Lowest-Rated Compact Car: Fiat 500L
Lowest-Rated Midsized Sedan: Chrysler 200
Lowest-Rated Entry-Level Luxury Car: Mercedes-Benz CLA
Lowest-Rated Luxury Midsized Sedan: Maserati Ghibli
- The Ontario Provincial Police launched a distracted driving campaign over the March break and in just a couple days police had laid 844 charges. “I was just talking to an officer here a few minutes ago. He had 34 tickets [Wednesday] alone,” OPP Sgt. Kerry Schmidt was quoted as saying. “They’re everywhere.” According to the report, “The OPP says 2016 marked the fourth consecutive year that inattentive drivers were behind the highest number of lives lost on OPP-patrolled roads ... A total of 218 people died in OPP-investigated collisions known as the 'Big Four,' with 65 people killed as a result of inattentive driving. Fifty-five were speed-related, 53 seatbelt-related and 45 alcohol-related.”