Who loves a good flood? Dealers, consumers eyeing luxury cars at throwaway prices

22 August 2018, 03:50 PM
Who loves a good flood? Dealers, consumers eyeing luxury cars at throwaway prices (Photo: PTI)
Who loves a good flood? Dealers, consumers eyeing luxury cars at throwaway prices (Photo: PTI)

Always wanted to own that Mercedes or a BMW? Or an Audi, but can hardly afford the ultimate in luxury cars? Even high-end models of popular brands like Maruti, Hyundai or Renault are out of reach. Don’t worry, now is the time if you are dreaming of a chance to pick them up at a bargain price. All you have to do is wait for auctioneers to announce dates for putting up the flood-damaged vehicles under the hammer when Kerala starts rebuilding itself after the flood waters recede.

Big car dealers are firming up plans to pitch their tents in Kerala, like they did in Chennai in Tamil Nadu two years ago when the capital city of this southern state was submerged under flood waters. Few BMWs, Audis, and Mercedes luxury cars costing upwards of Rs 2 crore a piece, went for as low as Rs 2 lakh or so. A costly sale of that of a Land Rover, costing Rs 1.25 fetched Rs 18 lakh to the auctioneer from a big used car seller of the country. There were Lamborghinis and Jaguars too for the picking.

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The reason for the rock bottom garage clearance sale of these luxury cars and high-end sedans and saloons was that they were all submerged under flood waters for three days in the December 2015 floods that hit Chennai. The capital city of TN and its adjoining four districts received the highest rainfall in a century that year leading to flooding of these areas. Likewise, Kerala too was lashed by the highest quantity of Monsoon rainfall of the century for the past one week and the state is submerged in flood waters.

The only piece of good news is that MeT office has predicted less rain and withdrew the red alert in all the 12 affected districts of the God’s Own Country.

Abhishek Gautam, COO of Cardekho.com, auctions division, is moving men and material to Kochi from next Monday to set up operations headquarters there to source and auction flood-damaged cars. For him, Kerala floods is the fifth flood-related auctions of vehicles he would be conducting, the previous one in Chennai where the total number of vehicles handled by his company totalled around 5,000.

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“I will be needing a bigger team in Kerala as the flood damage is more widespread and as per our initial assessment, Kochi would be the place to concentrate our operations. Kochi also houses the biggest dealers of automobiles in Kerala,” Gautam told News Nation in an exclusive telephonic interview.

“For the present, we are in talks with the insurance companies and would be in a position to start operations once life returns to normalcy in a few days,” he said.

Gautam was also handling this operation for his company during the Mumbai floods of 2005, followed by Surat in 2006 and then Jammu and Kashmir floods of 2014, Chennai floods of 2015 and now about to enter Kerala.

What can go wrong with cars that are submerged in flood waters is damage to their engines, electronic circuitry and malfunction of gadgetry in the machines. The used car dealer picks up the cars from the insurance companies and then auctions them to the highest bidders, who take chances – as any flood water affected car can develop a problem. But, with mechanics in tow, the customers are given a chance to inspect the vehicles and do spot bidding as well. 

Recalling his recent Chennai experience, Gautam said that a 2009 BMW and an Audi of around the same time went for as low as Rs 2 lakh, picked up by customers during routine auctioning.

A smaller dealer, who comes with mechanics specialising in repair of such cars, told News Nation that he would even pick up cars even if they were damaged. A Delhi-based dealer Arvind Dabas had pitched his tent in Chennai during January 2016 to pick up flood-damaged vehicles. He had a team of 15 mechanics with him. Since he is in the business of car repairing and maintenance, he picks up cars that are completely damaged and rip them apart for usable parts.

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In Chennai, Dabas had picked up an Audi, just few months old, for a mere Rs 18 lakh and needed no additional spending. He just drove it away for re-sale elsewhere.

For the insurance companies, who will be flooded with damage claims, the auctions help cut their losses. “If the auctions are successful, they would reduce our losses,” said an insurance sector source.

For the present, plans are being firmed up, for auction in Kerala. Early movers in this business began reacting and putting up teams even as television channels began beaming live pictures of monsoon fury a week ago.

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First Published: Monday, August 20, 2018 07:57 PM
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