Pinnacle Auto Appraisers' Blog
There are two primary cases that address the notion of damages in the diminished value context. The seminal case is that of Siegle vs. Progressive Consumer’s Insurance Company, 819 So.2d 732 (Florida 2002). The Siegle case, which was heard in fr
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Car production in the UK last year fell to its lowest level since 1956, according to figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.
The SMMT said the figures were dismal, largely thanks to a global microchip shortage and disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
It said there was optimism for the future, with the announcement of new investment worth nearly £5bn.
But it warned high energy costs could be a challenge for carmakers this year.
Hopes that car production would recover in 2021 were firmly dashed. According to the SMMT's figures, just under 860,000 new cars left UK factories last year.
That was even fewer than in 2020, when the first wave of Covid and the associated lockdowns forced several factories to close.
Production last year was 6.7% lower than in 2020 - and a full 34% below its pre-pandemic level.
The main reason for the decline, the SMMT said, was a severe shortage of semiconductors, or computer chips.
A modern car has complex electronics and can use between 1,500 and 3,000 chips to operate items such as engine management systems, emissions controls, safety devices and navigation systems.
But there were other factors affecting production too. These included widespread staff absences as workers were forced to go into isolation, and the impact of the closure of Honda's factory in Swindon.
The SMMT's chief executive Mike Hawes admitted it had been "a dismal year, there's no hiding it".
But he suggested that "despite this miserable year there is optimism", largely because of the announcement of £4.9bn in planned new investments, many of them in electric vehicles or technology.
These, he said, had been triggered by the signing of a Brexit deal with the EU, which had provided "a real shot in the arm", following five years of declining investment.
But he added the UK was "still playing catch-up" after a long period of Brexit-related uncertainty.
"The industry did everything it could to be prepared [for new post-Brexit trading arrangements], and largely that has been relatively smooth," he told the BBC's Today programme.
"It has incurred additional costs though, because whilst we were able to benefit from the deal we have with the EU, which avoids tariffs, it doesn't avoid other tariff barriers and additional administration which has required additional people and additional costs to everyone, whether you're exporting or importing."
For the UK motor industry, the pandemic came at just the wrong time.
Car production was already falling, and Brexit uncertainty was making manufacturers reluctant to invest in Britain - at a time when they were making big plans for a new generation of electric vehicles.
The trade deal with the EU solved that problem - but it came in the middle of a Covid outbreak which triggered a wave of new issues.
The shortage of computer chips is global and manufacturers around the world have been struggling to deal with it.
But at a time when the UK car industry should have been focusing on making up lost ground, it was left managing a crisis. The past year has been truly miserable for the sector.
Nevertheless, new investment is now coming in, and that momentum now has to be sustained if the UK is truly to become a force in the new market for electric vehicles.
Despite the general malaise in the industry, meanwhile, production of electric and hybrid cars rose by nearly 30% - and accounted for nearly a quarter of all the cars built.
Van production, which is becoming an increasingly important part of the UK motor industry, was also strong, with output recovering to just 3% below its pre-pandemic level.
Demand for these vehicles has been soaring due to the popularity of online shopping and home deliveries.
Independent forecasts produced for the SMMT suggest that production will rise by nearly 20% next year, to more than one million vehicles.
But the organisation said that unless new players come into the market, the industry is unlikely to return to the output levels seen five years ago, when some 1.7 million cars left UK factories.
That is due to the closure of Honda's Swindon plant, and the decision to make vans instead of cars at Vauxhall's factory in Ellesmere Port.
The chip shortage, meanwhile, is expected to remain a factor in the first part of this year - but become easier after that.
However, the industry is likely to face another, very significant challenge: rapidly rising energy costs.
"Escalating energy costs threaten the viability of vehicle plants, but also our competitive position," Mr Hawes said.
"We already pay more in energy costs here in the UK than in competitor countries across Europe and beyond.
"So we need to make sure we can try and mitigate those price rises to ensure we can remain competitive."
Main Street in Canandaigua, a town of over 10,500 residents, is four lanes wide with a grassy median in the middle. Daniels only made it past one of the lanes in a midblock crosswalk when a white SUV struck her. The force of the impact knocked her shoes off and sent her flying more than 20 feet.
“My head cracked on the pavement super, super hard,” remembers Daniels. “I still remember the sound of my skull hitting that pavement. It haunts me in my sleep.”
It took Daniels months to recover from her injuries. She suffered a nasty concussion, and awoke the next day to find fluid leaking out of her ears. Her entire left side was one big bruise.
“There isn’t a day that goes by, if I’m walking on the street, that I don’t think about that accident,” says Daniels. “I cannot be near cars and not think about it. [With the] immense size and power that vehicles have, as little humans we’re just outmatched.”
The year that Daniels suffered her accident was the beginning of an escalation in pedestrian deaths. Between 2009 and 2019, total driving miles increased by 10 percent while pedestrian deaths in the U.S. jumped by 50 percent. It’s since only grown worse, with more pedestrians dying in 2020 than 2019 despite a decline in vehicle miles driven. But even before the pandemic-related surge in reckless driving, American roads have been getting more dangerous for non-drivers in part because of the very vehicle type that struck Daniels down.
Numerousstudiesandinvestigationshaveshownthat SUVs and other light trucks arefar deadlierfor those outside the vehicle than sedans. This isn’t a novel finding: Almost 20 years ago,researchers showedthat SUVs were more than twice as likely to kill pedestrians as a normal sedan.
For decades, American vehicles have been growing heavier and taller, but the trend has accelerated over the last decade. In 2016, Fiat Chrysler announced they would abandon the sedan market, while in 2020 Ford decided to no longer sell them in the U.S. either. SUVs and trucks have outsold normal passenger vehicles every year since 2018. AsVice Newsrecently showed, American cars are gettingalmost as big as World War II tanks.
Unlike the European Union or Japan, the U.S. has no regulations that require automakers to consider the safety of anyone but the consumer. Tucked away in last year’s infrastructure law, however, is a provision that could require a rating system that includes the safety of those outside the vehicle. It also calls for the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) to promulgate new, and unspecified, regulations to tweak hoods and bumpers to be safer for pedestrians.
This rare moment of reform at the federal level also gives local and state authorities an opportunity to reflect on what they can do to stem pedestrian crashes. New York City, let alone Ontario County, can’t regulate car companies. But there are changes that can be made to the streets of cities and towns that can stem the carnage.
Otherwise, it will be left to personal responsibility. As more Americans drive vehicles akin to zippy Sherman tanks, transportation experts say that in too many cases that will not be enough.
Big Cars Are More Dangerous
The size of a vehicle matters when it comes to pedestrian safety. When pedestrians are hit by a sedan, they are likely to suffer a blow to the legs. But being struck by a large truck or SUV is far more likely to be life threatening.
“A full-size truck might hit a woman my size in the face, the neck, or the chest,” says Angie Schmitt, a planner who works with localities to develop safer streets. “That’s a more dangerous place to suffer a very strong blow: Your internal organs, your head, your brain, those are not good places to be hit.”
As passenger vehicles have become taller and larger, it also becomes harder for drivers to see people in front of their vehicles. Children, those using wheelchairs, and even average size adults can be obscured by a towering hood.
Jed Weeks, a bicycle advocate in Baltimore, captured an adult man being hit by a slowly turning pickup truck that appeared to have been unable to see him as he used a crosswalk.
“A lot of these medium to heavy duty pickup trucks are being purchased by people that are not fully using their capabilities and are just driving alone to work,” says Weeks. “That design is obviously super dangerous if those vehicles are increasingly used in urban and suburban areas as commuter vehicles instead of being used as work trucks.”
What Can Government Do?
In 2015, Barack Obama’s administration proposed adding pedestrian safety to the crash rating system used to score vehicles. But Donald Trump’s administration stymied the regulation.
The provisions in the infrastructure act are a chance to revive these efforts, according to transportation reform advocates like Schmitt. But she is not sure that the impetus for change will last, especially in today’s extremely polarized partisan climate.
USDOT has two years to write the new regulations for making automobiles more pedestrian friendly and then it has to be passed by Congress. But as the politics of transportation have become more polarized, it is easy to imagine such a bill being turned into a culture war issue.
“We’ve already seen this [kind of regulation] scuttled by a Republican administration that was regulation averse,” says Schmitt, who is also author of a book on pedestrian safety. “For a lot of people their identity is closely allied with certain types of vehicles and it’s very polarized.”
“The other political issue is that the American auto companies are very invested in SUVs and pickups,” says Schmitt. “Politicians are hesitant to do something that would harm the American auto industry compared to foreign competitors.”
If the odds of change at the federal level are challenging, that doesn’t mean states and localities are powerless. In New York a bill was introduced to require pedestrian safety rankings for vehicles sold in the state, although it never got out of committee. California has a long history of pushing new regulations on the auto industry, and because of its sheer size, forcing the companies to adopt such changes elsewhere.
On the local level, less dramatic fixes can be adopted. In Baltimore, the slow-motion crash that Weeks witnessed could have gone much differently. But a few days earlier, the city had put up a traffic calming installation — just simple flex posts and paint. The driver saw the new addition to the road and slowly maneuvered around it.
“This video was filmed two days after the installation, so if the guy had crossed the street two days earlier, he might be dead,” says Weeks. “Prior to that, the driver of that vehicle likely wouldn’t have even stopped in this intersection so they would have made that turn at triple or quadruple the speed.”
Narrowing wide streets, tweaking intersections to encourage slower tuns, and making crosswalks more visible are all well within the power of local authorities. (A slight design tweak to create clearer signals around the mid-block crosswalk could have saved Daniels a trip to the hospital and months of recovery in 2010.) An installation with flex posts like the one in Baltimore is cheap and easy, but it isn’t particularly robust. Other traffic calming measures, like curb extensions or harder obstacles, could be safer — if more expensive.
For Daniels, it is important that drivers take responsibility for the vehicle they drive, and the bigger the automobile the bigger the responsibility. (She now lives in Palm Springs, Calif., and owns an SUV herself.) Pedestrian safety isn’t about shaming consumers for buying a vehicle that may well make sense for them, but current conditions ensure that SUVs and light trucks dominate the market — and the built environment and auto regulations isn’t structured to ensure they interact with pedestrians safely.
“I just try to be grateful that it wasn’t worse,” says Daniels, “because I see the statistics about how many people die because of traffic crashes. And they seem to me to be very needless deaths.”
You probably know that new and used car prices are at historic highs.
In previous columns I’ve recommended that you don’t buy a new or used vehicle today, because waiting until the microchip shortage abates and supplies of vehicles rise will see prices drop by thousands of dollars.
This advice is particularly aimed at those who don’t have another car to trade in. This is because the car you trade in is worth about as much more as the vehicle you’re buying increased. In other words, the value of your trade-in largely offsets the increased cost of the car you’re buying.
About a third of new cars on the road today are leased. A lease contract includes a clause giving you the legal right (option) to purchase that vehicle at a price that was fixed when you leased it, about three years ago. This amount is the “residual” and was forecast (guessed at) by the leasing company. Often, those forecast prices are inaccurate because markets change. Over the last two-plus years with the COVID pandemic, rampant inflation and the microchip shortage precipitating the vehicle shortage has caused those lease residuals to be much, much lower than today’s market value of your leased vehicle.
Many are unaware of their option to buy their leased vehicle, and the leasing company or the car dealer takes the vehicle back, sells it at the auto auction and makes a huge profit above your option price.
To take advantage of the increased value, you must first establish today’s market value. You can do this by shopping your vehicle to several potential buyers. The used car departments at franchised dealers for the same make you drive will make offers. Go online to used car companies like www.Carvana.com, www.WeBuyAnyCar.com, www.CarMax.com, www.Vroom.com and many more. Google “Used Car Buyers” and you’ll find many more. It’s a “seller’s market” and the more you shop your leased car, the higher the price you’ll get. Of course, you technically don’t own the car; the leasing company does. But that won’t deter you from hearing the offers. You’ll have to exercise your purchase option before you can sell it.
Different leasing companies have different policies on exercising your option to buy. GM, Honda, Toyota and Ally Leasing will sell you the lease car at the residual and this is the safest, easiest way. Your leasing company, if they won’t buy your offlease car, will require you to return it through one of their dealers. Unfortunately, most dealers will add bogus fees, often over a thousand dollars to your option price. If you must go through a dealer, shop the dealers to find the one that charges the lowest extra fees.
If you don’t want to buy and then sell your off-lease car, you may be able to get an extension on driving the lease for up to six months. The longer you can wait to make another purchase or lease, the lower the prices will be when you do have to commit.
If you own a car now, you can realize all the advantages described above without all the hassle. Just be sure you shop your trade-in to as many of the used car buying sources as you can. ¦