The South African Motor Body Repairers’ Association (SAMBRA), a proud association of the Retail Motor Industry Organisation (RMI), has responded with disappointment to the latest update from the South African Insurance Association (SAIA) regarding the progress on releasing a vehicle-salvage database that will give motorists and all relevant stakeholders access to the write-off history of a particular vehicle.
Amidst growing pressure, SAIA released Phase 1 of the Vin Look-up in September 2023. According to Zakes Sondiyazi, SAIA Manager: Insurance Risks, about 14 329 total searches (these include incorrect VINs) were carried out during the first month, of which 8260 were distinct VIN Searches. He says 43 hits were obtained (these are searches that produced code 3, 3A and 4 records). Jacques Viljoen, national director of SAMBRA, says while it is good to note the number of searches that clearly justify the need for such a database, he questions the effectiveness of these searches.
Viljoen says SAMBRA will be hosting a one-day strategic session with a number of influential stakeholders in the industry next Wednesday 15 November, to discuss a strategy moving forward. This will include a session on how the industry has experienced the system so far. “We are concerned that research from a number of different stakeholders, including our own extensive research, is producing concerning results that the Vin Look-up is not picking up all vehicles that have been previously “written-off”. As the code 2s have not been published yet, ‘uneconomical to repair’ vehicles cannot be identified. Viljoen says concerns have also been raised that while access is free, it is limited only to individuals and not to commercial entities. The number of searches is also restricted to only five searches per individual, per month.
This talks directly to the importance of data access for all. Brandon Cohen, National Chairperson of the National Automobile Dealers’ Association (NADA), representing 1451 franchised vehicle dealers in South Africa, says: “Vehicle information and data are vital, not only to the consumer purchasing a vehicle or to the bank financing such, but also to vehicle dealers who trade in vehicles for sale in their used vehicle departments. It goes without saying that selling an accident-damaged vehicle has the potential to result in heightened risk to the safety of the purchaser plus significant reputational and financial risk if there is a safety event.”
Viljoen says the biggest disappointment once again is SAIA’s inability to meet any of its agreed undertakings. Earlier this year, SAMBRA was given the assurance from SAIA that it would adhere to its new deadline for publication of Code 2 vehicles by December 2023. This really talks to the heart of the problem. These are vehicles that have previously been in an accident and been declared uneconomical to repair by insurers. The publication of the code 2 will inform any future or prospective buyer of the damaged or salvaged vehicle, that will require extensive expense to restore.
In its latest communication to SAMBRA, SAIA is, however, now saying that discussions are at an advanced stage to “consider” the inclusion of Code 2 records and “we hope to finalise the discussions during the 1st quarter of 2024”.
Sondiyazi attributes the delay this time to the protracted discussions that are taking place with the DoT, RTMC and SAPS who have direct interest in this topic. He says SAIA will also revise the necessary liability disclaimers to include reference to Code 2 records once the discussions have been completed. They say that only during the second quarter of 2024 will discussions on the proposed access to commercial entities (Banks, Dealers and interested entities) be addressed.
“The delays are concerning. Agreement to release this information was initially given by the South African Insurance Association (SAIA) and the Insurance Crime Bureau (ICB) as far back as March 2022. We are almost another two years down the line, and consumers, dealers, banks and insurers alike still do not have access to the information necessary to protect them against the purchase, refinancing or insurance of one of these written-off vehicles. And while businesses and consumers alike suffer financial losses from time to time, the people who die because of using these vehicles are never mentioned because the actual cause of the fatal accident is never revealed. The delays will no doubt form the core of vigorous and robust debate at next week’s session,” concludes Viljoen.