Tony Vercillo was ready to throw in the towel not once, but four times last week after working almost 30 years in the dealership industry.
Keeping up with the assembly line of people needing a vehicle replaced after two sulphuric acid spills in Trail has become mind-boggling for staff at Champion Chevrolet Buick GMC Ltd., stressed the assistant sales manager.
Simply put, dealers and insurers are overwhelmed with the volume of claims.
So Vercillo is asking people to please be patient, they are doing the best they can.
“We are getting overwhelmed because we can’t provide all these vehicles and we get it, everyone is pissed off,” he said. “I’ve been doing this 29 years and have never seen anything like it, it’s a catastrophe. It’s not fun, it’s not fun at all.”
Family Insurance Solutions Inc. set up shop in Champion Chevrolet last month for what was only supposed to be a few days.
But the team is still there testing client vehicles for damage related to sulphuric acid contamination.
“They were only supposed to be here for three days,” Vercillo said. “They are now going into their third week. As of last Thursday, they had written-off 80 vehicles and every day since they are writing-off another eight to 10.”
Calls to Family Insurance were unanswered by press time.
However, as the company’s evaluations are being carried out five, sometimes six days a week, in a bay at Champion Chevrolet, the Trail Times asked Vercillo to describe the process.
He has personally watched how a car is determined to “pass” or “fail” the test for acid contamination.
Certain parts of the vehicle are sprayed with distilled water, he began.
“When the water drips off (they use) test strips that change colour,” Vercillo explained. “For example, my truck passed because the test strip was green. But my car failed, the test strip turned yellow, which means fail.”
Then what happens?
“They are recommending that you do not drive the vehicle if it tests positive,” Vercillo replied. “Then, like I had to, you have to go home and dial a claim.”
Sulphuric acid will eat away at any metal, especially aluminum. One of the first areas where acid-related wear becomes evident on a vehicle is the brake calipers.
As far as trade-ins Champion Chevrolet took in between April 10 until now – and may have unwittingly sold with acid contamination – Vercillo wanted to clarify how the business is dealing with that scenario.
“Vehicles that we took in on-trade after April 10, we are getting them checked by our insurance guy,” he clarified, mentioning the number stands at 30-or-so.
“We’ve contacted all our customers … and the ones we took in after April 10 we are going to inspect them free-of-charge.”
With no end in sight for the number of vehicles coming each week for testing, Vercillo again asks people to practice patience.
“It’s so overwhelming for the dealer, and we are hearing ‘you guys are making a ton of money,’” he said. “But honestly, no, I am hating this. It’s actually making me want to quit my job after 29 years, it’s brutal.”
Sadly, there are many people who didn’t buy replacement insurance so they owe more than their car is worth.
“(They) want exactly the same as what they had and I can’t do it,” Vercillo said.
“And we understand people want their cars (replaced) today, we are doing our best, but you really can’t get it today.”