Two years ago the freighter Cougar Ace nearly sank, spending weeks bobbing at an impossible-looking angle in the North Atlantic. The cargo was eventually saved (you can read about the salvage effort here), but what does one do with cars that have spent weeks at sea? Can you be sure that they weren’t damaged?
The Wall Street Journal says that Mazda had lots of potential buyers. Movie studios wanted to use them as stunt cars. High schools wanted them for auto shop classes. In the end, Mazda decided to destroy them. All of them.
From the Wall Street Journal:
Mazda turned everyone away. It worried about getting sued someday if, say, an air-bag failed to fire properly due to overexposure to salty sea air.
It also worried that scammers might find a way to spirit the cars abroad to sell as new. That happened to thousands of so-called “Katrina cars” salvaged from New Orleans’ flooding three years ago. Those cars — their electronics gone haywire and sand in the engines — were given a paint job and unloaded in Latin America on unsuspecting buyers, damaging auto makers’ reputations.
Mazda saw no easy way to guard against these outcomes. So it decided to destroy approximately $100 million worth of factory-new automobiles. “We couldn’t run the risk of damaging the brand name that Mazda worked so hard over the years to develop,” says Jeremy Barnes, the company’s corporate-affairs director for North America.
It turns out that wrecking cars isn’t a simple matter. “We had to create a disassembly line, basically,” says Bob Turbett, the Mazda executive overseeing the destruction process.