Battle for transparency in code 2 rebuilds shifts up a gear
The saga between the SA Motor Body Repairers’ Association (Sambra) and the SA Insurance Association (Saia) continues.
The former has for years been lobbying for the latter to make its Vehicle Salvage Data (VSD) information available, as well as a publicly accessible write-off register in the form of a VIN check which consumers can access to make informed decisions before buying a used car.
Sambra national chairperson Charles Canning told industry stakeholders, the government and media at a conference on November 15 insurers routinely write off vehicles deemed uneconomical to repair, and these vehicles are sold, within a salvage contract, to auction yards.
Still registered as code 2 (the description for a used car) they are sold to any buyer willing to pay the highest price on auction. Canning divulges that this practice also negatively affects the auto body repair sector.
Sambra says in many cases these vehicles are bought by dubious repairers and sold back into the system for a profit via digital sales platforms or used-car traders. Unsuspecting buyers often end up with these unsafe vehicles, some of which have serious defects and have not been reclassified as code 3 (rebuilt), and the purchaser has no way of checking the history.
The other problem is that these cars are not repaired and are sold on and can be bought by hijacking syndicates who rebirth them under new identities. The VIN and engine numbers on the stolen or hijacked vehicle are changed and replaced by the written-off vehicle’s papers and the scrapped licence plates are used on the stolen car.
In September 2023 Saia made available the phase 1 data, which is free to members of the public, but Sambra criticised Saia for not listing previously written-off code 2 vehicles.
Data from Saia indicates 14,329 searches were made on the site, of which 8,260 were distinct VIN searches. Only 43 searches produced code 3, 3A (spare parts only) and 4 (permanently demolished and unregistered) records from the vehicle salvage database, which applies to the estimated 30% of insured vehicles in the country.
Sambra says the request to send its own assessors to test the VIN-lookup system on Saia premises was denied. Saia says this was because “this is a first of its kind initiative in South Africa and therefore it has risks that need be identified, avoided, mitigated and monitored by Saia to protect its motor members, service providers and the public”.
Earlier Saia said it would publish code 2 vehicle data by the end of this year, but has pushed this back to the second half of 2024.
At last week's Sambra Vehicle Write-off Conference in Sandton, which the insurance sector was invited to but did not attend, independent forensic motor assessor Chris Viljoen detailed some of the cases he’d encountered of previously written-off cars finding their way to unsuspecting customers.
Andrew van der Westhuizen testified about paying R315,000 to a second-hand dealer for a Mazda CX-5 SUV, unaware it had been in a crash and rebuilt.
Ferose Oaten, chair of the Vehicle Testing Association which represents private vehicle testing stations, gave attendees a glimpse into how her sector conducts its business, highlighting that examiners have no access to the code status of vehicles.
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