Canadian Manufacturing

Fleet buyers beware: flood-damaged vehicles to hit Ontario market

Corrosion in electrical components can cause safety risk to unsuspecting consumers, OMVIC says


TORONTO—Ontario’s auto sales watchdog is anticipating an influx of flood-damaged vehicles in the province’s market in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

In a warning issued by the Ontario Motor Vehicle Industry Council (OMVIC), consumers were cautioned to “brace for an influx of storm and flood damaged vehicles in the aftermath” of the storm that battered much of the U.S. eastern seaboard.

According to OMVIC spokesperson Terry O’Keefe, U.S. authorities have contacted the provincial government body, saying “it’s only a matter of time” before the damaged vehicles make their way north of the border.

“There is a historical pattern to this,” O’Keefe said in a statement. “After Hurricane Katrina we saw many flood-damaged vehicles find their way to Ontario.

“While the total number of flooded vehicles in the U.S. northeast is not yet known, car buyers need to be vigilant.”

The biggest threat these vehicles pose, according to OMVIC director of investigations Carey Smith, is to safety, as water damage can lead to corrosion in electrical components and cause failure in devices such as airbags.

“It can take months or years for the effects of this exposure to show but when it does, it can be catastrophic,” Smith said. “Air bags might not deploy in a collision, engines could shut off at highway speeds, steering could fail—these vehicles are not safe for the road.”

Under Ontario’s mandatory branding program, imported vehicles from the U.S. branded as ‘flood damaged’ would automatically be deemed irreparable by Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation.

While registered dealers must disclose issues like flood damage to buyers under the Motor Vehicle Dealers Act (MVDA), “curbsiders”—OMVIC’s name for illegal sellers—could potentially try to sell such vehicles to unsuspecting consumers who are unaware and unprotected.

“Curbsiders commonly buy salvage vehicles, conduct dubious repairs and sell them to unsuspecting consumers,” O’Keefe said. “The availability of these ‘Sandy’ cars will undoubtedly provide a new stream of inventory for these unscrupulous sellers.”