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Car repair shops go into overdrive

Updated: 2012-08-07 14:58
By An Baijie ( China Daily)

Vehicle repairman Wang Xiaojun has been busier than ever since July 21, when the heaviest rainfall in six decades hit Beijing, damaging many vehicles in the ensuing floods.

Wang, 46, who owns an automobile repair workshop in the Xiaowuji Auto Parts Market in southeastern Beijing, said that he has been "working round-the-clock" with three employees.

About five to six cars have been coming to his workshop every day, triple the normal number, Wang said.

"Many cars have to be parked on the nearby road since there is not enough space in my workshop," he said. "Most of the cars were waterlogged."

The unexpected surge in business has made repairmen like Wang much busier than before. He tried to hire more workers but found that other repair shops were also seeking repairmen.

"It took several days to fix a waterlogged car since the components had to be taken apart and dried in the sun for at least three days," Wang said.

Lu Yuping, manager of a company providing automobile rescue service in both Beijing and Central China's Henan province, said that the company has been busy rescuing vehicles every day.

"One or two cars used to call our company for rescue service every day in Beijing in early July, but the number soared to more than 10 cases each day after the heavy rain," she said. "The price of rescuing a car has also increased from 200 yuan ($30) to 1,500 yuan."

Lu Hong, 49, a manager in a Beijing-based public relations company, was trapped inside his SUV in flood water while driving on the Beijing-Hong Kong-Macao Expressway on July 21. He managed to get out of the vehicle and escaped to a safer place before it was completely submerged.

"I could only get my vehicle back after three days when the floodwaters receded," he said. "It was covered with mud, and all of the electronic devices in the car were destroyed."

The rainfall was so destructive that a large number of cars needed to be overhauled because the engines were damaged, according to Wang, the repairman.

"The engine is the most important part and the most expensive," Wang said. "To fix the engine of a car always costs as much as 30 percent of the whole car's price."

Liang Wei, a resident in Beijing whose BMW was submerged near the Guangming Bridge on July 21, had to spend nearly 400,000 yuan to fix the destroyed parts, including the engine.

"It cost me 1.2 million yuan to buy the car, and now I had to pay an extra 400,000 yuan for the repairs," he said.

Liang tried to claim compensation from Ping An Insurance since he spent more than 80,000 yuan paying insurance to the company every year since 2008 when he bought the car, but his request was refused.

"The insurance company said I have not bought insurance covering water damage, but I bought the insurance for vehicle damage. Now that my car has been damaged, I should get the compensation."

Ping An Insurance, one of China's major insurance companies, said on its website that car owners should buy insurance for water damage or they would not be compensated.

Liang said he was considering suing the insurance company if his claim gets rejected.

"The insurance company should do its business in a responsible manner, rather than just focusing on making profits," he said.

Previous judicial cases show that vehicle owners are more likely to win lawsuits against insurance companies over compensation of water-damaged vehicles.

A car owner in Lishui, Zhejiang province, sued a local insurance company in August 2011 because the insurance company refused to compensate him after he spent more than 41,400 yuan to fix the engine of his water-damaged car, according to Legal Daily.

The court decided the company should cover all of the car owner's expenses of fixing the car, given the fact that the engine was a key component of the car that should not be exempt from compensation, said the report.

The China Insurance Regulatory Commission said that 41,000 vehicles damaged by the heavy rain had been reported to insurance agencies in Beijing as of July 29, involving an estimated 370 million yuan in compensation.

Outside Beijing, insurance agencies in the neighboring city of Tianjin received nearly 8,000 claims for damaged vehicles. In addition, 1,131 cases were received in Hubei province and more than 5,000 cases in Guangdong province, all hit by heavy downpours and ensuing floods, Dong Bo, an official from the insurance regulatory commission, told Xinhua News Agency.

Liu Hua in Zhengzhou contributed to this story.