SAMBRA, the South African Motor Body Repair Association, is set to create its own task team to address and expedite public access to the national Vehicle Salvage Database (VSD). BSN Africa’s Abri Henning was at the Vehicle Write-Off Conference.
The decision follows the SAMBRA conference, which was held at Emperor’s Palace in Kempton Park, Gauteng on 19 May 2022. It was convened by Richard Green, National Director of SAMBRA and attended by representatives from the wider automotive industry, including insurance providers, financiers, body repairers, vehicle dealers and the media.
SAMBRA’s VSD task team is the latest step in its efforts to make the database public, and it follows the organisation’s apparent exclusion from the recently formed VSD task team that was created earlier this year by the South African Insurance Association (SAIA) and other industry role players.
“The discussion around making the VDS public has been going on for close to a decade and a half,” says Green, who spoke to BodyShop News Africa on the side-lines of the conference.
“We took on the task of making this a reality about four-and-a-half years ago and have since treated it as a strategic issue. We are independent and as such we can take the moral high ground without fear of reprisal and pursue this as a matter of public interest.”
Green says that SAMBRA’s interest in the publication follows a raft of cases of poor and often dangerous repairs reported by its members and the public.
“Our members would receive a vehicle with no previously reported damage from a client and once our members strip the cosmetic parts, they would find evidence of previous, very poor structural repairs.
“In many of these instances, we commissioned seasoned assessor Chris Viljoen of Chris Viljoen Motor Assessments to investigate the report. His findings pointed to sub-standard and dangerous repairs, usually done prior to sale and without the knowledge of the current owner,” says Green.
At the conference, Viljoen, Green and other specialists shared images and reports of sub-standard repairs done to unwitting customers’ cars, including refitting spent airbags and gluing the airbag hatches shut.
Green explains that SAMBRA met regularly with SAIA and other parties, such as the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC), various insurers and the Insurance Crime Board (ICB) to make public access to the VSD a reality.
“In this way, customers could effectively exercise their right to know the full background of the vehicle that they were purchasing.
“Earlier this year, SAIA agreed to publish the information. It formed a task team with the above-mentioned role players and SAMBRA to make it happen. All the members agreed to part-fund the web portal that would house the information, which would mean that the information would be free to the public,” says Green.
He explains that the database would contain Vehicle Identification Numbers (VIN) only and that members of the public would, once they have completed a verification check, be able to check on the status of their vehicle or of one that they are planning on buying.
The decision to make the VSD public was well-publicised, but it appears that the process has since slowed down or stopped with limited information on the next steps and on the level of detail that would be made public.
Green says that SAMBRA, the panel’s voice for the motor body repair industry and the public, was also removed from the task team.
The newly formed SAMBRA Task Team will continue the organisation’s efforts to make the VSD public.
“We understand that there is a lot at stake for all the role players and that many could face an initial cost if the VSD is published. But this should not override the public interest,” says Green.
He is, of course, referring to the potential backlash from customers who have unwittingly bought and financed an “undamaged” vehicle and who would now find out that their vehicle wasn’t undamaged or that it had been written off before.
To mitigate any further delays, Green has proposed one solution in which the VSD is made live and that all vehicles from the day of publication be listed. He has also signalled SAMBRA’s willingness to provide other information to the database that would make it more valuable to the public and all members involved.
“We have committed to publishing the information of any vehicle that we do structural repairs on.
“We will also engage with the SA Police Service and the government to collect and list the code information of vehicles that are not insured and that would therefore not be on the current VSD database,” says Green.
SAMBRA and other organisations have estimated that only 30 per cent of vehicles on South African roads are insured.
SA Vehicle Codes explained
- Code 1 – New vehicle. As sold by a dealer and delivered to the first owner.
- Code 2 – Used motor vehicles with one or more previous owners. This also applies to vehicles previously registered, even if the condition is still new.
- Code 3 – Code 1 and Code 2 vehicles that have been in an accident and that have been declared unfit for use. If it is subsequently repaired, it receives a Code 3 status as a built-up vehicle.
- Code 3A – A vehicle permanently unfit for use and to be used for spare parts only. Such vehicles have to be reported to the Insurance Crime Bureau.
- Code 4 – Permanently demolished – these are vehicles that have been damaged to such an extent that they cannot be repaired and made roadworthy. Code 4 vehicles are deregistered.