Motorists Cope With Acts Of God

Published on page 1 of Philippine Star, 30 September 2009

Hundreds of Filipinos are now scratching their heads wondering what to do with their cars that got submerged in floodwaters at the height of tropical storm Ondoy’s onslaught on Metro Manila and neighboring provinces last Saturday.

Car repair shops on Shaw Boulevard in Mandaluyong City have been inundated with calls for help. Nissan, for example, has received at least 657 calls since Sunday while Honda has reportedly decided to politely turn away customers because the number of cars in its repair facility has already exceeded its capacity.

Towing companies were also deluged with calls from desperate car owners. The Automobile Association of the Philippines (AAP), which offers free towing to its members, now has a waiting list of more than 300 requests. A number of its tow trucks were also stuck in flood waters over the weekend. Meanwhile, private towing company Ibero Asistencia, which services insurance companies, now has a waiting list of 600 requests.

Standard Insurance, the biggest in the motor car insurance business, is offering free towing to all cars with comprehensive insurance coverage. Unfortunately, it also cannot handle the enormous volume of requests.

Damage from typhoon and flooding is not automatically covered by car insurance policies. Such perils are considered Acts of God of force majeure, additional risks in insurance that require added premium that normally ranged from 1 to 1.5 percent of the sum insured.

Some insurance companies, in a bid to corner some big accounts, have given AOG covers as bonus to their clients. Executives of these companies are now reportedly scratching their heads also.

There is no estimate yet on the number of cars damaged by Ondoy’s floods, although the National Disaster Coordinating Council has pegged the overall damage to property at P1.5 billion all over the country.

Art Mallari, a fleet manager from a pharmaceutical company, said car owners would have to spend some P150,000 to get their vehicles repaired. Based on experience (he was in Nissan during the 1999 great flood that hit eastern Metro Manila), he said an average sedan would require replacement of the following parts:

1. Electronic Control Unit (ECU) or more popularly known as the computer box. This costs P40,000 on average.

2. Radio and sound system. Basic types easily cost P10,000.

3. Instrument panel. Most cars today have digital speedometers and tachometers. This are all electronic in nature and gets damaged once soaked in water. This could cost at least P20,000.

4.Power windows motor and regulator. A car has four of these and they cost at least P2,000 each.

5. Power lock motor and regulator. Again, you multiply this with four in a four-door sedan. They cost about P2,000 each also.

6. Headlamps and tail lights. If mud gets into these, they are very difficult to clean. Replacing them would cost about P20,000 per pair.

7. Aircon compressor. This would cost about P20,000.

8. Fan motors. Though they are designed to get wet, they are not designed to be soaked for long periods. They eventually gets corroded. They cost about P4,000 each.

9. Brake calipers also get corroded from floods. Replacing all four would cost about P10,000

All in all, the parts alone would already reach P140,000. Add the P5,000 detailing cost of cleaning the carpet and seats plus another P5,000 to drain the fuel, oil and other fluids and the cost already runs at P150,000.

It is important to note that these costs do not yet include body repair, painting or engine overhaul which could also be required depending on the damage sustained by the car.

Mallari said car owners with Acts of God cover in their insurance policies are assured that the repair would be shouldered by their insurer.

However, insurance companies require a participation fee or deductible which usually ranges from P5,000 to P10,000. For cars over three years old, insurers would also compute for the depreciation of the parts to be replaced. The depreciation is usually computed at 10 percent per year.

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