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How to destroy 4,700 new cars?
April 29, 2008 9:31 AM   Subscribe

Remember the FAIL boat (also prev)? Now Mazda's in the midst of trying to efficiently dispose of approximately $100 million worth of factory-new automobiles.
posted by allkindsoftime (87 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
That's ridiculous.
posted by zeoslap at 9:45 AM on April 29, 2008


What a waste!
posted by rbs at 9:46 AM on April 29, 2008


What a ridiculous waste.
posted by cashman at 9:46 AM on April 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


Hollywood asked about using them for stunts.

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.


What.

"We had to create a disassembly line, basically,"

All manufacturers should be required to have a disassembly line and to take back broken or discarded product.
posted by DU at 9:47 AM on April 29, 2008 [5 favorites]


Oh, fer cryin' out loud. They couldn't even re-use the TIRES???? Come on... I can't believe THAT.
posted by bloomicy at 9:50 AM on April 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


I wish I could get a replacement bumper for my car from one of those. How much does a new bumper for a Mazda cost, anyway?
posted by backseatpilot at 9:52 AM on April 29, 2008


On one hand, I can fully understand the companies need to avoid all potential negative outcomes.

On the other hand, I really, really need a car right now and this just pisses me off.
posted by lekvar at 9:53 AM on April 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


I can see why they had to do what they did, but you think they could have sold the parts with a waiver of some type (says the Mazda 6 owner with visions of cheap factory alloys to mount snow tires on). Ahh well - at least they were stringent about the environmental issues. Wacky stuff.
posted by jalexei at 9:56 AM on April 29, 2008


Insurers covering Mazda's losses wanted to be sure the company wouldn't resell any cars or parts

There's your evil right there.
posted by spicynuts at 9:56 AM on April 29, 2008 [11 favorites]


Parting them out would be a brilliant plan that would at least bring in some money. Even if they refused to sell parts that were possibly damaged they're still plenty of others that are good enough, as mentioned above. Tires, hubcaps, lights, body trim, bumpers, seats, any thing that wasn't a part of the engine or designed to take some damage in a crash is worth saving.

Just lease some unused land, start one of those u-wrench it places, and let people come take what they want of the approved parts.
posted by Science! at 9:57 AM on April 29, 2008


They should've recombined all 4600 Mazda 3s into one giant Mazda.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:58 AM on April 29, 2008 [13 favorites]


no one knew for sure what damage, if any, might be caused by dangling cars at such a steep angle for so long.

Clearly next time they should not tie the cars down.
posted by 7segment at 10:00 AM on April 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


They should've recombined all 4600 Mazda 3s into one giant Mazda.

MechaMazda!
posted by ninjew at 10:03 AM on April 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


They should've recombined all 4600 Mazda 3s into one giant Mazda.

robots in disguise...
posted by Mental Wimp at 10:04 AM on April 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


Doh!
posted by Mental Wimp at 10:04 AM on April 29, 2008


Ah, insurance, how capitalism loves thee! If there were still any question about your magnificent inefficiency and beautifully pointless waste, this ought to put it to rest forever. Thank you, oh brave and stalwart middle-man, thank you!
posted by vorfeed at 10:10 AM on April 29, 2008 [13 favorites]


I love my Mazda 3! Two and a half years, so far the only problems have been some warning lights that eventually go away on their own.
posted by autodidact at 10:14 AM on April 29, 2008


Oh, fer cryin' out loud. They couldn't even re-use the TIRES???? Come on... I can't believe THAT.

I don't know how insurance tends to work, but I'd imagine it's the big driver behind this, with "We're afraid to be sued" and "We don't want to damage our reputation" minor concerns. If they sell the cars then the cars were not destroyed by the accident, leading to no or reduced insurance payments. If they destroy the cars then the cars were destroyed by the accident, leading to a full insurance payment. Sound right to anyone? Hell, with the cars declared destroyed by the accident, it looks like the insurance company even pays to have them smashed, so it looks like this accident was maybe great for Mazda. If the cars had made it safely, Mazda would have to pay to unload them and handle them until sold, and eventually would receive the sale value of the vehicles. With the accident, Mazda does not have to pay to unload and handle the vehicles, but still receives the sale value.

Somewhere in there the insurance company, Mazda, or both, insist that "every steel-alloy wheel has to be sliced, every battery rendered inoperable, and every tire damaged beyond repair. All CD players must get smashed," probably because, again, these cars were destroyed in the accident, and if the accident didn't finish the job Mazda better pick up the slack by junking every piece. Then, standard corporate assholeism dictates that they smash everything to bits because if they can't have it no one can - god forbid some guy running a junkyard gets to sell some car CD players.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 10:15 AM on April 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


I'm sure that at least a couple of guys managed to stick a Miata or two under their coats and get away with them.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:15 AM on April 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


They should've recombined all 4600 Mazda 3s into one giant Mazda.

If it weren't for Megatron and his damned Insurocons.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:16 AM on April 29, 2008 [10 favorites]


So engineers back at Mazda's headquarters, in Hiroshima....

I can't be the only one thinking that surely people from Hiroshima could think of a quicker way to totally destroy all the cars at once.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 10:20 AM on April 29, 2008 [8 favorites]


Insurers covering Mazda's losses wanted to be sure the company wouldn't resell any cars or parts

This is just like when an auto insurer totals your car. You don't get to keep the car too... if you still want it, you pay the insurer and your check goes down. For a person, it only makes sense to do this if the car is worth more than the insurer thinks. The same for Mazda, and presumably the insurer's payment is sufficient to not bother.
posted by smackfu at 10:21 AM on April 29, 2008


If it weren't for Megatron and his damned Insurocons.

I think Optimus calls them "Shitpieces" now, actually. ref.
posted by Mikey-San at 10:21 AM on April 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


Insurers covering Mazda's losses wanted to be sure the company wouldn't resell any cars or parts -- thereby profiting on the side. So every steel-alloy wheel has to be sliced, every battery rendered inoperable, and every tire damaged beyond repair. All CD players must get smashed.

This is so wrong it's bizarre. I can't even begin to comprehend how an industry gets so fucked up that it thinks this is a good practice.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:23 AM on April 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


When I bought my car at the end of 2006, I was all set to pick out a 2006 model and save some money, but then the sales guy fed me this crazy line. "All we have are 2007s. The 2006s are sitting at the bottom of the ocean right now." What a load of crap! Hahah! Hah!
posted by katillathehun at 10:23 AM on April 29, 2008


no one knew for sure what damage, if any, might be caused by dangling cars at such a steep angle for so long.

What, nobody ever parks Mazdas in San Francisco?
posted by howling fantods at 10:24 AM on April 29, 2008 [4 favorites]


The part that puzzles me is why they bothered recovering them at all? If the boat had just sunk, it would have been the same end result -- except that the one guy wouldn't have died, which is a heavy cost.
posted by smackfu at 10:25 AM on April 29, 2008


I have a Mazda 3. There was a game show on the Comedy Network where contestants endured with a variety of humiliations. At the end the winner was awarded a Mazda 3, but for every question they answered wrong the paint on the car was scratched or the windshield was broken or the headlights kicked out. Ah, there's great marketing, I thought, establishing a vehicle as the model to vandalize and abuse. Now this.
posted by TimTypeZed at 10:34 AM on April 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


It seems odd that the insurance company didn't pay out and then take posession of the cars for parting. But most likely Mazda wouldn't agree to that, since if the parts failed later it would come back on Mazda and not some insurance company.

As strange and wasteful as this seems, it does make sense. What other solution would cover the interests of both sides? Not to mention I doubt anything has been thrown away. They're just going to ship all the raw materials back to Asia to be made into new cars again. And capital circulates and the wheel goes round. I'm sort of puzzled by the outrage.
posted by rusty at 10:37 AM on April 29, 2008


This really is a question of efficiency.

If they just say 'destroy everything', then they have to pay a bunch of workers to do the scrapping, and they'll recover about $3m in value from the shredded cars, assuming a value of approximately $400/ton.

If they try to part things out, the value of the parts will quickly plummet as they will have created a massive oversupply for replacement parts, on car models that aren't even old enough to need parts yet. As such they'd end up with huge carrying costs to warehouse the materials until 2008 mazdas started being old enough to routinely need replacement parts.

It's quite easy to see where saving, warehousing and attempting to sell the parts would actually cost them far more than simply destroying them and moving on. And since it would end up costing Mazda (and the insurance companies) more money, then that really removes the idea that it would be a great source of bargains. After all, if you get a bargain wheel, but mazda lost $10m in the process of giving you that bargain wheel, then in the end other consumers are going to end up paying for your bargain, with interest.

As for the idea of giving them to schools for auto classes, I absolutely love it, and it's disappointing that idea didn't pan out. I'm guessing that the lack of a pre-existing method to verify the buyers, and the well-known problem of damaged cars routinely ending up in other states and countries made it such that the liability risk was greater than the value of the proposed donations.

In any case, I just don't believe this was as inefficient as it seems at first glance.
posted by Project F at 10:37 AM on April 29, 2008 [4 favorites]


Im a longshoreman and I worked on the cougar ace. I got to see the damage first hand. The degree of the list caused a bath of salt water, battery acid, coolant and AFT throughout most of the ship. You could smell the corrosive materials on the ship. They clean up nice, but the battery acid and the sea water got in the engine department. So you are possibly looking at electrical damage that you cannot see and will be a future problem as corrosion works its way through. The list even allowed the fluids to get in the door panels and other compartments. Sounds like it could lead to future rust problems. Good luck to anyone looking to buy one.
From a comment posted in 2006 on a blog at vehiclevoice.

State Farm reportedly settled a $40 million lawsuit for dumping cars from the Katrina flood. There seems to be a certain degree of financial logic to destroying the Mazda vehicles.
posted by F Mackenzie at 10:37 AM on April 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


smackfu: millions of gallons of gas, oil, antifreeze, battery acide, heavy metals, etc etc etc going into Alaskan waters. And that's just the cars. Letting a giant ship sink is absolutely never the best option.
posted by rusty at 10:39 AM on April 29, 2008


Pater Aletheias: You mean send the cars over to the US so the military can load them on bombers and...

Wow, I even surprised myself with this thought.
posted by emelenjr at 10:43 AM on April 29, 2008


I can't even begin to comprehend how an industry gets so fucked up that it thinks this is a good practice.

This, and modern day capitalism, is all very rational when you consider that the exclusive goal, rule, and morality of large corporate persons is: "Maximize profits."

That's it: "Maximize profits." Not: "Maximize profits subject to the constraints of ethics, morals, laws, environmental concerns, common sense, etc." When they think they can make more money by adhering to laws and morals, they will adhere, but when they think they can make more money by not adhering, they won't adhere. So, in America the rule of law is, as of yet, strong and fair enough that say, a big security guard corporation with policy such that the guards tend to shoot innocent people for no reason would not make money, and you don't get that here, but go to Iraq and look at Blackwater.

This is one of the larger reasons we're all fucked.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 10:45 AM on April 29, 2008 [4 favorites]


All manufacturers should be required to have a disassembly line and to take back broken or discarded product.

Agreed. Build it into the cost.

except that the one guy wouldn't have died, which is a heavy cost.

Not to a car company. See The Pinto Memo.
posted by sourwookie at 10:49 AM on April 29, 2008


The part that puzzles me is why they bothered recovering them at all? If the boat had just sunk, it would have been the same end result -- except that the one guy wouldn't have died, which is a heavy cost.

Except the part about the boat. Nobody's feeding the boat into a crusher.

Oh, and the fact that the guy dying wasn't part of the plan.

And the fact that they thought they'd get the ship upright in time to salvage the cars.

Hindsight is 20/20, but even with hindsight I'm not sure that the environmental disaster that would be a ship of cars (lead acid batteries, much?) on the bottom of the ocean would be a good plan.
posted by Leon-arto at 10:50 AM on April 29, 2008


Weird - I was driving north out of Portland this weekend on Rt 30, and somewhere just north of the St Johns bridge I saw what looked like hundreds of cars parked on the east side of the Willammete. Wonder if that was them.
posted by gottabefunky at 10:54 AM on April 29, 2008


That's it: "Maximize profits." Not: "Maximize profits subject to the constraints of ethics, morals, laws, environmental concerns, common sense, etc." When they think they can make more money by adhering to laws and morals, they will adhere, but when they think they can make more money by not adhering, they won't adhere. So, in America the rule of law is, as of yet, strong and fair enough that say, a big security guard corporation with policy such that the guards tend to shoot innocent people ... [derail]

What, exactly, is wrong with Mazda and its insurers saying "we're going to lose a huge amount of money in order to make sure that there aren't unsafe cars on the road"? If you want to talk about greedy capitalists then a greedy car company and insurer would have colluded to make sure that all of the car parts got sold. The insurer has to pay for every car part that goes into that shredder, and Mazda probably pays a deductible on each and every car.

It seems that the so-called "greedy" option would be to put all of the cars on the road. Then you'd be complaining here about greedy corporations when an airbag failed to fire or a valve leaked or whatever else goes wrong when cars are stored on their side under the water line in a heaving ship on a salty sea.

Trust me, a "greedy" insurer would have forced Mazda to sell every single salvageable car part in order to cut the amount it had to pay out. (If Mazda sold parts then its loss would go down, and insurers will never cover more than Mazda's loss.) That would be the greedy approach.

The rest of your derail is completely irrelevant.
posted by Leon-arto at 10:55 AM on April 29, 2008 [7 favorites]


Willamette
posted by gottabefunky at 10:56 AM on April 29, 2008


They should've recombined all 4600 Mazda 3s into one giant Mazda.

They could've called it the Mazda 13800.
posted by wanderingmind at 10:59 AM on April 29, 2008 [5 favorites]


Couldn't they have sold them to Jerry?
posted by bondcliff at 11:04 AM on April 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


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.

And thus the weakness in the litigious nature of our nation is revealed. These are (very probably) mostly functioning cars, which were being requested by groups that wouldn't have needed them to work perfectly, and in fact, probably would prefer that they didn't.

And despite how tightly a car's history can cling to it's title records, there was apparently no chance that Mazda's legal team could have drafted agreements which absolved them of any future responsibility to these vehicles?

There are a ton of useful things that Mazda could have done here, which would have garnered them a huge amount of positive and nearly free publicity. This, on the other hand is nothing but a huge waste.
posted by quin at 11:05 AM on April 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


What everybody said about this being strange and too bad and perhaps a waste.

Having said that, I think it would be kind of fun to be the airbag-detonating-guy for a day.
posted by marxchivist at 11:10 AM on April 29, 2008


On "Why not sink it?"- then Mazda would have an even worse PR hit as well as a massive cleanup bill. Oil slicks are bad enough- at least they float, and they're a single rather flammable family of chemicals. Four thousand cars worth of brake fluid, lubricant, grease, oil, wiper fluid, antifreeze, et al., would have been an environmental nightmare.

And salt water does incredibly bad things to both electronics and metal. The expense of figuring out what they can resell is significant- it'd require skilled assay of every component of every vehicle so affected. Mazda's concern about unethical secondhand sale designed to hide nonobvious yet severe damage is, in my opinion, very well-founded, and as stupid as this is I don't see a lot of other reasonable courses of action. Remember that money represents energy, and there's a reasonably good correlation of one to the other- trying to salvage the vehicles probably would be a severe waste of resources relative to just scrapping and recycling them. (Because recycling is the easiest way to dispose of the material, at that; we've got enough laws against waste dumping for that.)
posted by Kistaro at 11:19 AM on April 29, 2008


What, exactly, is wrong with Mazda and its insurers saying "we're going to lose a huge amount of money in order to make sure that there aren't unsafe cars on the road"? If you want to talk about greedy capitalists then a greedy car company and insurer would have colluded to make sure that all of the car parts got sold. The insurer has to pay for every car part that goes into that shredder, and Mazda probably pays a deductible on each and every car.

Who all is losing money? Mazda's getting paid for the cars, perhaps minus deductible, and not incurring the cost of trashing them, compared to getting paid for the cars or car parts, minus the cost of the damage, and incurring the costs of selling them, perhaps with some compensation for the damage costs from the insurance company. So Mazda's financial interest is served by simply cashing in the insurance policy, which is easy and a sure thing, compared to selling cars or car parts. Mazda isn't buddies with the insurance company - they don't give a shit about the insurance company's financial interests.

The insurance company, meanwhile, will be constrained by the insurance policy - blatantly break it, and they're gonna get sued. Judging by the fact that they didn't order Mazda to sell every little part, I'd say the policy doesn't allow for that. (Should they attempt to add such a clause to their policies, their insurance becomes less attractive and profits go down.) So it's in the insurance company's financial interest to pay, or they'd just pay more in court. They do get to mandate, for obvious anti-fraud reasons, that Mazda can't sell the cars piecewise once they've been written off as destroyed.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 11:21 AM on April 29, 2008


The part that puzzles me is why they bothered recovering them at all? If the boat had just sunk, it would have been the same end result -- except that the one guy wouldn't have died, which is a heavy cost.

The ship itself is worth hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars. It was repaired and is still running today, thanks to the salvage operation. Plus, there was a lot of fuel on that thing... over 150,000 gallons of it, not counting all the stuff in the cars. The environmental cost of allowing it to sink would have been great.

At any rate, you can't really blame Mazda for what happened to that guy -- he wasn't experienced at climbing, and his mates failed to take proper care of him (they didn't even stop to make sure he was tied in!) If anyone is to blame for his death, I think it's the salvage company he was working with.
posted by vorfeed at 11:22 AM on April 29, 2008


What a waste. Why didn't they just sell the cars cheaply with a heavy-duty warranty/waiver combination? The senseless destruction of 4,700 news cars obviously caused far more pollution than the total of the cost of all the parts that could possibly need replacement. There are plenty of cars on the road with more invisible hazards than these Mazdas.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 11:23 AM on April 29, 2008


Not to a car company. See The Pinto Memo.

That is very old.
posted by smackfu at 11:28 AM on April 29, 2008


And despite how tightly a car's history can cling to it's title records, there was apparently no chance that Mazda's legal team could have drafted agreements which absolved them of any future responsibility to these vehicles?

Probably not. It is almost impossible to contract around consumer protection laws, especially when you are the megacorp and the buyer is a consumer -- that's what the consumer protection laws are for. You, as a consumer, cannot as a matter of law waive the protection of the lemon laws, for example, no matter how many documents you sign saying so. Some people consider this a good thing, others not so much.

Aside: I went to law school at the ancestral home of the Law and Economics movement. One of the things that really gets up their noses there is that judges constantly read clear and unambiguous contracts to mean things other than what they say because, in retrospect, the contract seems "unfair" or has some unforeseen outcome. Early in my first year contracts class my professor suggested that there should be a contractual talisman, something you could write at the end of a contract like "AND WE REALLY MEAN IT" that would prevent the courts from changing what you wrote based on pesky policy imperatives like anti-usury laws and consumer protection. I don't see it happening.
posted by The Bellman at 11:35 AM on April 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


All manufacturers should be required to have a disassembly line and to take back broken or discarded product.

AKA Extended Producer Responsibility, or EPR.

Though really we should just be making far fewer cars, too
posted by regicide is good for you at 11:41 AM on April 29, 2008


I can't be the only one thinking that surely people from Hiroshima could think of a quicker way to totally destroy all the cars at once.

You're bad.
posted by Mister_A at 11:51 AM on April 29, 2008


I'm not seeing what's so horribly wasteful about shredding ruined and unsalable cars.

4,700 new Mazdas? What's that, like, an afternoon in Iraq?

Really, it's not like it was a boat full of puppies or healthcare or something.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 11:53 AM on April 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


(The WIRED article on the recovery of the boat these cars came off of is frickin' amazing, btw)
posted by bhance at 12:15 PM on April 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


Somebody say puppy healthcare?
posted by Mister_A at 12:15 PM on April 29, 2008


This is, of course, insane.

I understand that the nature of the laws is such that this is the most rational decision from the local point of view of the parties involved, but the waste, the destruction of the environment required to create those cars, trek them out into the middle of the ocean, destroy them utterly, and then dump the useless remains...

Future generations will remember this in the same way that we remember the insanity and excesses of the last days of Rome.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 12:21 PM on April 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


and then dump the useless remains...

The metal and rubber is all being recycled.
posted by Leon-arto at 12:30 PM on April 29, 2008


They could've called it the Mazda 13800.

Beat me to it. Crap. :)
posted by brundlefly at 12:43 PM on April 29, 2008


These cars weren't just a danger to their potential owners, but to every car they encountered. If a steering rod fails due to corrosion, a tire blows out in heavy, high-speed traffic, a fuse panel shorts out, taking down the headlights...the possibilities of killing not just the driver, but other drivers are endless.
posted by nomisxid at 12:43 PM on April 29, 2008


lupus_yonderboy, did you read the article? Nothing is being dumped into the ocean.
posted by yhbc at 1:02 PM on April 29, 2008


I Bet ASavage wishes he had the chance to bid on 5 or 6 to use for his little TV program.
posted by Megafly at 1:10 PM on April 29, 2008


"It would be quite simple to waste the surplus labor of the world by building temples and pyramids Mazdas, by digging holes and filling them up again with Mazdas, or even by producing vast quantities of goods Mazdas and then setting fire to them."

Finally Orwell's prophetic vision has come to pass. Except, you know, with Mazdas.
posted by Rhaomi at 1:44 PM on April 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


Capital is value in motion. In this instance potential capital was aborted. It illustrates clearly the illusory nature of what we think of as hard commodities.
posted by wfrgms at 1:46 PM on April 29, 2008


So how were these cars illusory now?
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 1:49 PM on April 29, 2008


You know, they might have given them to these guys.

but instead, they've decided to just pour out 4700 cars onto the ground, you know, for their homies.
posted by mr_book at 1:52 PM on April 29, 2008


There is something eerily beautiful about the process described. It sounds like something dreamed up by an artist.
posted by progosk at 1:53 PM on April 29, 2008


I work for Schnitzer Steel, and not far from the scrap yard where these cars are shredded. The stupidity inherent in the system that produced these circumstances frankly appalls me. While I know my company does fully recycle everything we recieve, the pure waste of time and energy going on here just throws me.
posted by Parannoyed at 2:13 PM on April 29, 2008


I Bet ASavage wishes he had the chance to bid on 5 or 6 to use for his little TV program.

Yeah, that's what I was thinking. I see Mythbusters destroy like, a car a week. Why couldn't they donate these to Hollywood, or something? I'm not saying they need the donation, but might as well destroy 4700 undriveable cars than working ones.
posted by graventy at 2:28 PM on April 29, 2008


Insurer payout to Mazda for scrapped cars > (Income from selling cars and car parts - Costs of storing and selling, logistics, potential lawsuits)
posted by junesix at 3:58 PM on April 29, 2008


They should've recombined all 4600 Mazda 3s into one giant Mazda.

I can't believe no one's said it yet...

Ahura Mazda
posted by djeo at 4:58 PM on April 29, 2008 [4 favorites]


They should have called in the giant fire-breathing car-eating robot dinosaur.
posted by snickerdoodle at 6:42 PM on April 29, 2008


I think the real reason is to support the resale value of all the other 2006 Mazda 3s.
Would you buy a 2006 Mazda 3 if you knew there were 4600 of them that had been through the boat incident? If they had made it to market Mazda would have had a bunch of owners who paid full price for their cars pissed off that the boatload shot their resale value to hell.
posted by bystander at 7:00 PM on April 29, 2008


What a waste. Why didn't they just sell the cars cheaply with a heavy-duty warranty/waiver combination? The senseless destruction of 4,700 news cars obviously caused far more pollution than the total of the cost of all the parts that could possibly need replacement. There are plenty of cars on the road with more invisible hazards than these Mazdas.

I'm getting a little confused here. When exactly is it OK for a evil multinational to knowingly sell cars with hidden defects that could render them surprisingly unsafe?
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 7:38 PM on April 29, 2008


I understand why the cars could not be sold. It is very much in everyone's best interest that those vehicles not be on the road.

That said, I sure as hell hope they did their very best to recycle as much as possible. Tossing the whole kit and kaboodle into the crusher is not smart. Mixing plastics and electronics and steel and all just doesn't make for recycling sense.

I believe the German car companies are cradle-to-grave responsible for the vehicles they sell in that nation. Thus, VWs are designed to be efficiently dismantled into their component pieces, each marked with its recycle symbol, so as to best recycle the materials.

I doubt Mazda's done that, though.

Fifty years from now, our children's children are going to hate us for fucking this planet so thoroughly.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:56 PM on April 29, 2008


One of the things that really gets up their noses there is that judges constantly read clear and unambiguous contracts to mean things other than what they say because, in retrospect, the contract seems "unfair" or has some unforeseen outcome. Early in my first year contracts class my professor suggested that there should be a contractual talisman, something you could write at the end of a contract like "AND WE REALLY MEAN IT" that would prevent the courts from changing what you wrote based on pesky policy imperatives like anti-usury laws and consumer protection.

Yes, because that would not open up new avenues for corporate abuses of asymmetric contractual relations at all! I cannot see how a mega-corporation, given this "talisman", would be able to enforce obscurely unenforceable contracts with the little guys. I mean, they have ethics advisers and morally sensible lawyers and stuff, right?

This event, and Bellman's explanation, is one of the more egregious examples of how corporate capitalism (or any economic system without environmental controls at the top of the power hierarchy) fails as a global model. A century ago we had very little power as a species to fuck up our planet. Now we have pretty adequate power to do so. But in a governing model where the underlying economic transactions fail to take into account even their most basic environmental impacts, the consequences are ruinous. Because as we get more power to fuck up the environment, intentionally or unintentionally, the very model of reactive environmental controls (megacorp destroys part of the environment, government comes in, cleans up and curbs future attempts to destroy it in that manner) is becoming laughably inadequate.

In this case I think the government should have stepped in and disallowed Mazda to destroy the cars, and forced them to devise a method to mark the cars as salvage and sell them.
posted by azazello at 9:41 PM on April 29, 2008


azazello---explain how scrapping and recycling all the raw materials from 4700 cars is unconscionably environmentally destructive?

There's also a sense-of-proportion thing going on here. 4700 cars is not much in the "grand scheme of things". But it's highly visible. So people on random Internet communities can rant and rave about how the "government should step in". But the big environmental crimes are being committed bit-by-bit under our very noses, mostly by you and me. It's not the "crime" of recycling cars before they get used, but the crime of having a society where people can make their lifestyle choices oblivious to environmental dangers.

This is exactly why I think no government-oversight regime could possibly succeed as a global model. Is some amorphous "they" in Washington (or Ottawa, London, Beijing, ...) going to have to micromanage companies to make sure they do the "right thing"? azazello---do you really, truly think that would work? The market-based solution (I won't say "capitalist" because for some people that implies absence of government intervention, which this isn't) is to disincentivize things you don't like. In this case, the government could implement a "disposal fee" such that throwing something out cost extra money because of how bad it is for the environment. If you think the government should have stepped in, you're not saving the environment but merely punishing Mazda for publicity.
posted by goingonit at 10:25 PM on April 29, 2008


Oh, fer cryin' out loud. They couldn't even re-use the TIRES???? Come on... I can't believe THAT.

Was that supposed to be a clever play on the fact that one of [Mazda-owner] Ford's most awful lawsuit fiascos was over defective Firestone tires? Because that was my first reading. I wouldn't be surprised if it was the sting of that whole affair that has made them this risk-averse.
posted by BinGregory at 10:44 PM on April 29, 2008


I really don't understand the responses here. Were you all just hoping for a thread Mazda accused of selling saltwater-damaged cars; astute blogger credits Carfax?

One the insurance company paid out, these cars were legally totalled. Kicked the bucket, shuffled off the mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the choir invisible. They were ex-Mazdas.
posted by dhartung at 11:18 PM on April 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


I spent my undergraduate summers working for Molson. I probably dumped out about 5000 bottles of beer because the labels were not glued on properly.
posted by srboisvert at 3:46 AM on April 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


goingonit: Of course this is a drop in the bucket. It's an example of an untenable approach, though.

By the way, only a small fraction of the cars were damaged by the saltwater. Only a small part of the decks were flooded when the ship tilted, and only the bottom decks suffered any significant splashback when it righted itself (and I doubt that splashback damaged any of the cars that were not close to the flooding).
posted by azazello at 4:59 AM on April 30, 2008


The degree of the list caused a bath of salt water, battery acid, coolant and AFT throughout most of the ship. You could smell the corrosive materials on the ship.

If salt water gets into the engine, the car is dead. That's why you always have to be on the lookout for cars that come on the market following major floods or hurricanes. Salt water is basically antimatter to a car. It is the complete antithesis of a car's entire existence. Everything that salt water represents, a car is the opposite of. All the guys salt water voted for? Cars are registered for the-other-guy.

My point is just that once any of those parts touch salt water, they're suspect. My father works in reliability engineering. Used to work on the space shuttle's main engine. He taught me how there are some cars (most made back before I was born) where the engineers got to build the car (or component, like the slant six), versus the accountant making the call. Most of the time, it's the accountant. But put away any "planned obsolescence" conspiracy theories: engineers are proud folk. If you give them a challenge like, "Build me a car out of tinfoil that will last for 10 years", by George they'll do it... somehow! (Just look at the Koreans... they'll even warranty it for ten years).

If the engineers say "this bolt gets exactly three and a quarter inch pounds of torque" and you give it 3.25 inch pounds of torque and then add a giant glass of salt water on it, you're adding something to the equation that wasn't there before. There are only a very small number of uses for products with essentially zero reliability.

They'd probably be fun at one of these, though.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:01 AM on April 30, 2008


goingonit:

bit-by-bit under our very noses, mostly by you and me

haha nice one. speak for yourself.

It doesn't really matter what you or anyone else thinks is tenable as compared to market capitalism, because we as a society are untenable. We must come up with a proactive environmental controls model where environmental interests govern corporate interests (notice that nowhere did I mention a departure from capitalist model otherwise), or reap the whirlwind.
posted by azazello at 5:03 AM on April 30, 2008


ABC News actually had a report on this last night, with footage of the crushing provided by Mazda PR. It looks like they are pushing this out as a story of corporate responsibility. They said something like "Mazda decided to destroy $150 million worth of cars because they couldn't guarantee their safety." Love that spin.
posted by smackfu at 7:35 AM on April 30, 2008


There's a lot of axe grinding going on here.
When did we become anticapitalist slashfark?

Lets write the headline as
"4.7K unsold cars totaled, disassembled, and recycled to avoid risk after accident".
posted by Richard Daly at 9:43 AM on April 30, 2008


Do we even know that the cars are being sold for scrap?

After all, the insurance companies are keeping Mazda from recovering anything from the cars by parting them out -- why wouldn't the same logic apply to selling them for the scrap value?

It wouldn't surprise me if they have to dispose of all the scraps in some non-reusable fashion, just to prevent anyone from conceivably profiting from it. That makes just as much sense as ordering them to slash perfectly good tires and cut perfectly good rims. If "destroy the value" means "destroy the value," that would imply the scraps have to be dumped into the ocean or into a landfill as well.

This reminds me of what I heard when Motorola's Iridium network went into bankruptcy. They had a huge network of orbiting satellites -- a perfectly functioning, state-of-the-art communications network -- and as part of the bankruptcy proceedings they were going to have to "de-orbit" (crash into the atmosphere, destroy) every one of them. It made me want to vomit. Thankfully, in that case, the Federal government stepped in and took the whole thing over, because of its obvious usefulness for emergency communications. But the point is that without intervention, a huge resource would have been intentionally destroyed.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:56 AM on April 30, 2008


Yes, it's obvious the cars were not fit to be sold for normal use.

I'd imagine they were quite fit for Hollywood to wreck up in stunts or for mechanic schools to use for practice, and when you're at the point where you're making sure all the dashboard CD players don't work and melting down the tires, it's just absurd.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 10:01 AM on April 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


After all, the insurance companies are keeping Mazda from recovering anything from the cars by parting them out -- why wouldn't the same logic apply to selling them for the scrap value?

I'm not sure that you understand how insurance works.

Right now, the insurance company owns the cars; it counted them as totaled, paid Mazda the full value, and took title. The insurance company is the one that wants to sell as many parts off these cars as it can. Every dollar made by recycling scrap metal is another dollar that the insurance company doesn't lose on this deal.

Anyway, it says so in the article.
posted by Leon-arto at 10:03 AM on April 30, 2008


I probably dumped out about 5000 bottles of [Molson] beer because the labels were not glued on properly.

No great loss, then, eh?

Out of curiousity, dumped out into what? Just down the city sewer?
posted by five fresh fish at 6:04 PM on April 30, 2008


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