By on February 4, 2009

The Financial Times reports that the glut of unsold new cars has spilled onto previously underutilized ships. Carmakers have apparently run out of space on dealer lots, ports of entry, rail cars, and airport runways. Just last spring, there wasn’t enough capacity aboard the world’s fleet of 640 car carriers to go around, a situation upended by the global downturn in car sales starting around September. Coincidentally, there are 70 more (and larger) car carriers due to be delivered this year. Shipping companies are relieved to get the storage business, and carmakers get someplace to hide their cars. The FT.com article was able to confirm that up to 2500 Toyotas are chartered for an extended cruise to nowhere aboard the Morning Glory in Malmö, Sweden. (Pictures, anyone?) As long as the boats don’t flip over, the cars will be just fine. [ED: Until the marine environment takes its toll.] And if not: sad, sad pictures of shredded Mazdas aboard the Cougar Ace here.

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26 Comments on “Carmakers Storing Unsold Cars Aboard Ships...”


  • avatar
    mikey

    Sad sad pictures of shredded Mazdas?I guess it all depends on your perspective?

  • avatar
    GS650G

    Huge loss for Ford and Mazda in some ways, but look at the tax write off. At the end of the day it’s faster to crush them than sell.

    Love the airbag photos.

    But it’s probably better to crush them than risk the bad PR from selling some of them. I’m sure most were relatively undamaged in the incident(according to the captions) but who wants a car from a capsized ship?

  • avatar
    KatiePuckrik

    I just hope a bunch of Somali pirates don’t capture the ships with GM vehicles on them and expect a ransom!

    They could be in for a long wait……

  • avatar
    Richard Chen

    @mikey: locomotive gets a DTS hood ornament, via Jalopnik

    Also: the Tricolor was a car carrier that got hit in the English Channel and went under a few years back with a boatload of Volvos and BMW’s. The ship was cut into pieces and there was a picture of a hull being lifted with cars still in it. Link to salvage site.

  • avatar
    rochskier

    I can’t remember the magazine that it appeared in, but there was a gripping story written about the group of folks responsible for righting the Cougar Ace.

  • avatar
    findude

    This is similar to the phenomenon with oil tankers where something like a day’s worth of world consumption is currently being stored on tankers at sea.

    Here’s one article: http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/front/6239731.html. The issue is covered regularly at theoildrum.com.

  • avatar
    mikey

    @ Great photos Richard

    Thanks
    Michael

  • avatar
    Richard Chen

    @mikey: you’re welcome. Enjoying retirement by hanging out here?

    @rochskier: Wired, I think

  • avatar
    Bancho

    I’ve seen a few underutilized parking lots at one of the Boeing facilities here in the Puget Sound area stuffed with new Nissan and Hyundai vehicles. I guess if they don’t have a pressing need for the ship elsewhere then it makes some sense to just store the vehicles there as well. They’re also probably better protected from the elements.

  • avatar

    What a waste. They could take the time to dismantle the cars and use the untouched mechanical and interior parts (the only real damage is cosmetic and perhaps structural), but instead they cut the losses and shred them. No wonder car makers are feeling the pinch so badly, with practices like that. It’s like seeing a vehicle scrapped for insurance purposes, when I could happily rip out the fun parts and make use of them but I can’t lay a finger on it because the insurance company has declared it a write off. Not that it matters now, because those parts would be as useless as the complete cars they can’t sell.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    Weird, I wonder why Mazda wouldn’t have sold those cars as salvage units to dismantlers? Each one would have been worth thousand of dollars for the retrievable panels, windows, parts and such. Shredding them seems mighty wasteful.

  • avatar
    Richard Chen

    FTA: “The day they came off the boat, we started doing some testing on a 70-degree list,” Mazda’s Davis says. “The guys in Japan put some powertrains on jigs at that level. Really, what concerned us most was the electrolyte in the batteries. On their sides, it’s not bad. But the saltshaker motion [of the ship at sea] added a lot of damage. We were also concerned about the durability of everything from seals on powertrains that weren’t immersed in lubricants to electronics and sensors. And there were concerns about angle and motion that couldn’t be tested.

    “The cars were parked in that ship in four different directions, and that added a level of complexity. I’ll never forget when I got the load plan and [it showed] how every car was parked on the 14 decks. On ramps. On corners. We had to mark on which side each listed to.” Throw on top of those considerations different engine options and different transmission options, and the prospect of prepping the vehicles for sale grows ever more daunting. “Remember these are unibody cars, and some of the damage could be hidden,” Davis rues. “I don’t even want to get into cutting open the cars.”

    There were dozens of ideas of what to do with the cars. Filmmakers wanted to wreck them in movies. Trade schools wanted them for service training. Fire departments wanted them to practice extractions. Many thought at least the MX-5s and RX-8s could go racing.

    But those suggestions might have eventually put some of the Mazdas back out on public roads with their potential defects and potential for liability. Davis remembers that the fate of all the cars was sealed after a meeting that lasted just 10 minutes. Except for about a dozen drivetrain components sent to trade schools, not a single part would escape destruction.

  • avatar
    becurb

    What the hell was the Cougar Ace doing anywhere near the Aleutians?

    Car carriers are notoriously top heavy, and present a very large sail area. Both issues give car carriers a reputation for being ill-mannered boats.

    The Cougar Ace – a recent entry to the distinguished roll of fail boats!

    Bruce

    p.s. – were Somali pirates to discover they had captured a GM car carrier, they would probably apologize the the crew and beat a hasty retreat.

  • avatar
    Geotpf

    There would have been an easy way to prevent those Mazdas from eventually being resold and used on public roads-remove all the VIN numbers. You can’t register a vehicle without a VIN.

  • avatar
    200k-min

    I’ll take a Mazda that sat on its side for a month over a Chrysler Sebring any day.

  • avatar
    jkross22

    Anyone know what the lifespan of a car is sitting on a ship or parked on an airport runway before the mfg takes it back and shreds it?

    Yet another explanation for why some car companies are losing money like it’s going out of style.

  • avatar
    200k-min

    Anyone know what the lifespan of a car is sitting on a ship or parked on an airport runway before the mfg takes it back and shreds it?

    I would assume it could be several years. Had an uncle buy a pickup off a dealer lot that was brand new except it was 3 years (4 model years) old at the time. Got a heck of a deal too.

    The bigger problem is the over supply will devalue the new vehicles. Might be cheaper to destroy perfectly good vehicles just to reduce supply to the point where they can charge a profitable price.

  • avatar
    Geotpf

    jkross22 :
    February 4th, 2009 at 1:06 pm

    Anyone know what the lifespan of a car is sitting on a ship or parked on an airport runway before the mfg takes it back and shreds it?

    I imagine never. The manufacturers wouldn’t have any vehicles that old in their possession (I hope), but some dealers (like the one 200k-min’s uncle purchased from) will, and they will probably just keep lowering the price until they get rid of it.

    GM’s monthly sales charts are a great example of this. They show sales by dealers to end users (and factory to fleet sales), so occassionally a long-since canceled model gets a few sales. For example, last month, somebody bought a “brand new” Saturn Relay, which hasn’t been manufacturered since 2006 (2007 model year, but production ended late 2006).

  • avatar
    yankinwaoz

    The guys who worked the crushing job must feel like the people who destroy worn currency notes for the US Treasury. Painful to watch.

    I couldn’t help but notice the professionalism and completeness of the job as compared to the story about Germany paying to destroy old clunkers that somehow end up back on the road. Maybe Germany should hire this company to do the job right.

  • avatar
    Old Guy Ben

    And the ocean waves do roll,
    And the stormy winds do blow.
    And we old salts are sittin’ at the top,
    The Land Rovers lie down below, below, below,
    Oh, the Land Rovers lie down below.

    Not so old Irish folk tune.

  • avatar
    tedward

    what about salt spray? I don’t care so much about rain on an airport, but even the slightest mist of the salty stuff is really bad news given enough exposure time.

  • avatar
    Domestic Hearse

    The horror. The horror.

    But, truth about cars time…

    GM thinks nothing about crushing a batch of cars for something as little as the paint job.

    All day. All the time.

    And they’re not alone. It’s cheaper to smash ‘em than to deal with warranty issues and consumer beefs.

    Yeah, I know. You’d take one for cheap and never complain. Have it resprayed if you had to.

    Save your breath. I tried that already.

    Seems logical to you and me but to manufacturers? They live on a whole nuther planet with a different rule book, I guess.

  • avatar
    Lotus7

    I’m concerned that someday we need to consider not wasting non-renewable resources to scrap cars or build crappy ones for no profit. Think of the natural resources used to make Sebrings….Aveos, etc.

  • avatar

    What the hell was the Cougar Ace doing anywhere near the Aleutians?

    Because the earth is a globe, not flat. It’s a shorter arc to sail or fly on a northern route than closer to the equator. Google “great circle”.

  • avatar

    What the hell was the Cougar Ace doing anywhere near the Aleutians?

    Because it is halfway between there (Japan) and here (USA.) get out your globe and string.

    –chuck

  • avatar
    joeaverage

    So they shredded all those seats, wheels, tires, radios, trim?

    Okay the chassis could somehow be tweaked but think of all the parts not damaged by sitting at a weird angle.

    I still think they should have sold the cars with a big disclaimer notice, a VIN number tagged as a reconstructed wreck and a few extra liability releases from the customer.

    As for storing excess cars at sea – that has a cost too – right? Fuel, crew, etc? Seems like some desert location would be a good option.

    I guess the salty air would be much less corrosive than a month of winter driving up north and these cars are prob coated much better than the cars of the 60s and 70s.


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