Wed, Jul 07, 2004 - Page 10 News List

Mindulle could end up soaking vehicle owners' wallets

By Tina Yuan  /  CONTRIBUTING REPORTER

With Tropical Storm Mindulle leaving thousands of automobiles soaked from flood waters, the Consu-mers' Foundation (消基會) yesterday reminded owners of the damaged cars to check whether auto repair shops are hiking their prices.

"If the prices are unreasonably doubled, or hiked even more, consumers should inform the foundation," said Cheng Jen-hung (程仁宏), secretary general of foundation.

"As soon as such reports are proven, the foundation will report them to the public immediately," Cheng said.

The consumer watchdog suggested car owners ask repair shops for clear explanations of which parts are damaged and get quotations for the repair work before having their cars fixed.

Cheng also suggested car buyers to pay extra attention to prospective vehicles, as flood-damaged cars and parts are likely to appear in the used car market in the next few months.

Consumers can protect themselves by demanding their contract cover the unconditional exchange of the vehicle if it turns out their newly-purchased car was actually flood-damaged.

No statistics on the number of flood-damaged vehicles are available yet from the government's disaster operations emergency center, because most of the damage from the storm was in mountainous regions in the center and south.

But the numbers are unlikely to be as high as those in 2001, when Typhoon Nari struck the country according to Chen Chuan-lion (陳俊亮), manager of Honda Taiwan Co.

"It is because there aren't as many cars in mountainous areas as there are in the cities," Chen said.

Dealing with a flood-damaged car is not only expensive but time consuming.

Wu Hsin-fa (吳新發), spokesman for Yulon Nissan Co, said the most important thing for car owners to keep in mind is: "Never try to start a flood-damaged car or the engine will conk out in no time."

He said the best thing to do is call a towing service to take the car to a garage for a check-up.

Several auto repair shops run by Honda, Yulon and Ford Lio Ho Motor Co are offering free towing service and discounts on repairing or replacing components.

Owners of flood-damaged cars will have to wait an average of at least two weeks for repair.

Repair costs will depend on the degree of damage and the original car price, Chen said.

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