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Preparing fiscal year-end documents for my accountant provides me (and all businesses) with the opportunity to step back and look at the financials on a year-over-year basis. This year, however, I suspect that we will all be spending extra time analyzing the economic carnage that was 2020. I’ve observed many friends’ businesses deemed non-essential. It is evident that they have written off the whole year and are simply waiting to see if there is going to be anything for them to return to.

My heart goes out to all who have lost a loved one, suffered alone, or had their dreams and endeavours fail this last year.

That being said, here is my own micro-analysis year-in-review – automotive edition.

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Having less vehicles on the road has resulted in fewer car accidents and less air pollution. A report by Hellosafe.ca shows a 32.9-per-cent fall in car-related claims across Canada. It would appear insurance companies in general are having an easier year.

As a result, body shops are doing fewer collision repairs, and less maintenance and repair dollars are being spent in shops such as mine.

I spoke with Frank Robert Sottile, owner of Carstar Brampton Collision Center in Brampton, Ont., about his own business observations last year. He confirmed that collision repairs were down 80 per cent. His main focus at this point is to mitigate the losses being incurred in any way he can. Body shops typically see a mix of insurance-company-paid repairs and customer-funded body and paint jobs. It’s obvious that both have been hit hard.

Joe Sforza owns the Active Green and Ross location across the street from my shop. Joe and I are not competitors though, and we work together to support each other and have become quite good friends over the years. He reports a 17.25-per-cent overall reduction in revenue, with winter-tire sales bearing the biggest brunt. For me, March, April and June resulted in a 60-per-cent reduction, but things levelled off as the year progressed, resulting in an overall drop of 19 per cent. Speaking with Frank gave me a new perspective. Joe and I have gotten off easy.

The pandemic has provided a series of valuable lessons, with business cost-cutting being the biggest. Twenty-five years in operation yields expenses that sneak up on you over time. I never knew I had so much trimmable fat.

Once again, we here in Ontario are under a stay-at-home order, and despite the surprising amount of traffic on the road, I can feel everything slowing down again like it did last year. It would appear that I will soon have more time to work on my Ferrari project car.

Hopefully everyone will work together, and we can put this behind us and move on to a summer with things returning to something resembling normal. Stay safe and healthy.

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Your automotive questions, answered

I am considering the purchase of a ’64 Mercury M100. The engine has been replaced with a 4.6 (2007) Interceptor Ford engine. Seller says that a catalytic converter is not required. I think that he is wrong, arguing that a ’64 doesn’t require emission-testing. I am under the impression that if the engine was originally fitted with a catalytic converter, it is required regardless of the installation.

Regards,

Stephen K

Emission programs are provincially regulated. Here in Ontario, we no longer have a light-duty emission test, but there are still some rules that apply across the country. Namely, whatever emission-control equipment that came originally installed by the manufacturer must still be present and functional. Using Ontario again as my example, this M100 pickup truck would not have been required to participate in the emission-test program due to its age, even when the program was still active. Regardless, classic-car owners are still subject to roadside inspections by the Vehicle Emissions Enforcement Unit (VEEU). Rumour has it that pre-pandemic, the VEEU had been known to appear at local car shows from time to time to inspect and ticket hot-rod and classic-car owners for pollution-control-equipment violations.

But in your case, I believe the whole discussion is a moot point as I don’t think that the vehicle in question came with any catalytic converters. Information is scarce for anything of this age, but even if I am wrong and the vehicle did actually come with catalytic converter(s), a universal catalytic convertor could easily be installed by your local muffler shop to make it compliant.

Lou,

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Not sure if you would have an opinion or advice on this, but here goes. I recently went to trade my car, a Certified Pre-Owned Mercedes Benz I bought in January, 2016. I knew the car had been in an accident prior to my purchase, which was disclosed as required by the dealer vendor. However, when I tried to trade it in, the dealership provided a CarFax report that showed a second accident three months prior to my purchase and said it impacted the current value. When I went back to the original dealer, they acknowledged the second accident and sent me the report they had dated December, 2015. However, they did not disclose it because the repair cost was not yet finalized. The current report showed it was about $10,000, well over the required disclosure value of $3,000. I would not have purchased the car if I had known it had been in a front and rear accident. Even Mercedes-Benz’s own promotional materials say they will disclose all of the history of a certified vehicle. The dealer did not and appeared to be relying on what they think is a loophole. I filed a complaint with OMVIC, but they only mediate if the dealer is willing. The dealer sold the dealership in 2018. It seems my only recourse now is to sue the former owners and sales manager of the dealership if I can find them. I believe there is a fund if I am not able to recover from the former dealer. The whole affair soured me on the car, and I traded it last month at what I believe was a reduced value.

Regards, Fred

I believe hiring a lawyer will be your only avenue at this point. However, I don’t think they can realistically offer a solution that doesn’t cost you more in legal fees than your loss. Obviously, I cannot offer any legal advice, but the problem, as I see it, is that if the dealer supplied you with current accident information at your purchase point, satisfying their legal requirement to provide adequate disclosure. If it was an aged document, then obviously you would have a cause, assuming you could actually find a party to legally pursue. The dealer was morally negligent by not disclosing the second accident, even though they didn’t have the dollar totals of the additional claim. But were they legally negligent?

My initial thought when I read your question was that a $10,000 accident, while significant on cheaper-model cars would be deemed as an average repair bill for even a minor- to mid-level hit on a Mercedes-Benz. I doubt it would affect the trade-in value as much as you think.

Lou Trottier is owner-operator of All About Imports in Mississauga. Have a question about maintenance and repair? E-mail globedrive@globeandmail.com, placing “Lou’s Garage” in the subject line.

Shopping for a new car? Check out the new Globe Drive Build and Price Tool to see the latest discounts, rebates and rates on new cars, trucks and SUVs. Click here to get your price.

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