Car News

Holden NZ warns of Australian insurance write-offs

Favourable exchange rates and a regulatory loophole have fuelled a new car sales game in New Zealand – reselling Australian insurance write-offs. Holden New Zealand isn’t happy.

ANYONE buying into Holden cars written off by insurers in Australia that have resurfaced in New Zealand for a new lease of life is “on their own.” 

That’s the blunt message from Holden New Zealand boss Kristian Aquilina (pictured) in regard to the growing trade in ex-Aus cars often bought for a song at auction by registered NZ car dealers and traders then sold here for significantly more.

Some are new and unregistered and some are damaged; all are statutory write-offs – meaning they can never again be registered for use on Australian roads again. It’s a different story in NZ, however.

Most apparently come from New South Wales and Queensland. All are pariah product in Holden’s view.

Aquilina says recent reports in specialist industry publications suggesting hundreds of such cars are now coming in every month is alarming and he cannot understand why NZ allows it to continue.

He did not know enough about local regulations to call for a ban, but said he found it difficult to reconcile that, while NZ had an open market condition, there were not protections in place.

He is especially concerned that Holden product, notably the Commodore large car, seems to be a favourite pick. He reminds they are without warranty so will not benefit from the usual support meted NZ-new equivalents.

“We have seen some try to come in and, of course, they are not covered by us. We have serious concerns and simply ask that anyone who thinks about buying these cars understands that it is ‘buyer beware.’

“We simply say this – those cars are not worth it.”

Some imports are vehicles have been storm-damaged but not obviously so from a cursory inspection. Recent big hailstorms in Sydney and flooding in and around Brisbane had resulted in available of considerable counts of cars becoming available.

It is thought up to 400 vehicles are being imported into NZ each month from Australia and sold online. Near-parity with the Australian dollar has seen numbers soar.

Why? Because NZ law allows insurance write-offs from Australia to cross the country’s borders and be born again. Not only that, cars that might have been deregistered years ago in Australia can still be re-registered here and considered brand-new; thus a 2011 write-off could become a 2015-new car.

Aquilina says that transparency is easily uncovered. The NZ Transport Agency logs the arrival of each vehicle and records the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), which can then be cross-referenced with the maker – a prudent move as the importer is apparently not legally bound to tell all.

“The information is there and publicly available for anyone to check out.”

He said it is not unknown for Holdens to be privately imported out of Australia, but recently “more than half, if not three-quarters, imported recently appear to be insurance write-offs. So it’s a significant proportion.” However, the actual counts were not known to him.

“It’s a concern for those customers who are buying those cars in good faith and perhaps are not being told the full story about them.”

He said there was no suggestion Holden dealers were involving themselves in the business. “The ones that speak to me are absolutely aghast at this – it is hurting their reputation.”

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Richard Bosselman

Richard Bosselman