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September 2007

Identification of salvage vehicle changes proposed
by Irwin Rapoport Write the Author

The Automotive Recyclers Association is calling on Congress to enact legislation to identify and record the VIN (vehicle identification registration) of vehicles declared total loss salvage by insurance companies. Total loss salvage vehicles purchased by thieves, fraudsters and unscrupulous dealers are having a negative impact on the legitimate automobile recycling, repair and export industries, resulting in inconvenience and higher costs to U.S. consumers.

“Sometimes one vehicle is bought at a salvage auction and by the time all is said and done, 10 vehicles with that VIN number have left the country and nine of those vehicles were not bought legitimately,” says Sandy Blalock, the ARA’s first vice president.

Gary Beagell, the president of the ARA, says that the association’s drive for legislation will eliminate some of the illegitimate activity by giving law enforcement and consumers access to the total loss VIN data. The ARA is not alone in their concerns. The executive president of the Mexican Automobile Industry Association is also voicing concerns about the number of illegal cars coming in from the U.S.

“We put the number at about one million used cars coming into Mexico and are concerned about the affect that it is going to have on our domestic auto industry,” says a Mexican official. “We want this addressed.”

The ARA supports an export provision added to the legislation that would prevent the export of multiple vehicles using the same VIN number and the public disclosure of total loss salvage VIN numbers on an accessible electronic database.

George Eliades, who recently held the post as the ARA’s CEO, says that public disclosure is essential so that people can get the history of a vehicle as soon as that car is declared a total loss or reaches end-of-life and prior to the consumer’s purchase of that vehicle.

Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS) introduced the Passenger Vehicle Loss Disclosure Act (S.545) on February 12.

“It is moving through the legislative process,” says Beagell. “There is some language that we would like to see included, that is not currently part of the legislation, that would address the export issue and multiple VIN numbers being used for various vehicles.”

Beagell sees this as a bi-partisan issue and is hoping for as quick a passage as possible.

“It just depends on what is in the calendar,” he says.

In the House, Congressman Cliff Stearns (R-FL) and Congressman William Jefferson (D-LA) introduced legislation with the same title (HR.2811) on June 21.

“This gets it on the agenda,” says Beagell, “but there is a long road to get amendments included. In the mean time, illegitimate buyers are continuing to send vehicles out of the country using duplicate VIN numbers.”

The ARA stresses that much of the criminal activities with vehicles are based on a lack of consistency (organization) in the states’ vehicle titling process and the unscrupulous dealers taking advantage that lack of uniformity.