Fears over 'tsunami cars' landing in Malaysia

Some of the thousands of damaged cars lined up on a street in Sendai as part of a clean-up operation after  the earthquake and tsunami. — NST picture by Sairien Nafis
Some of the thousands of damaged cars lined up on a street in Sendai as part of a clean-up operation after the earthquake and tsunami.
MALAYSIAN car fans, it seems, are eager to know about the fate of the many damaged cars found scattered in the main areas hit by the recent earthquake and tsunami here.There is now a fear that such vehicles, now commonly called "tsunami Cars", or their parts will make it to Malaysian shores through unofficial or grey market channels.

A check by the New Sunday Times yesterday revealed that the Japanese authorities had been lining up the damaged cars and also new cars affected by the disaster in the main areas of Fukushima, Iwate, Ibaraki and also Sendai.

Most of the cars, with models sold independently in Malaysia, are from established Japanese car makers such as Honda, Mitsubishi, Suzuki and Toyota.
However, the most common are the popular model variants by Mitsubishi, Toyota and Daihatsu which share a common platform with our local Proton and Perodua cars.

The models range from parts that are compatible with our Proton Wira and Juara to Perodua Kancil, Kenari, Kembara, Myvi and also the recent Viva. According to Japanese car enthusiast K. Kanagawa, most of the cars would be sent to be scrapped as their metal content was considered valuable to the domestic Japanese steel industry.

"However, during the process many will not know what happens to the parts, such as usable engine parts and panels," he said through a translator.

Kanagawa, who is also well-versed with the Japanese export market for parts to Southeast Asian countries, said that there were still thousands of vehicles in good condition with only minor damage not accounted for after the earthquake and tsunami on March 11.

Nevertheless, he said a majority of cars sold in the used car auctions in Japan were sold outside of the affected areas and were mainly concentrated at Osaka (Kobe), Nagoya and Tokyo..

Osaka and Nagoya were not affected at all by the earthquake or by the tsunami. Cars and vehicles stored in the ports were unaffected.

However, Kanagawa is not dismissing the possibility that some exporters will jump at this opportunity to buy any post-tsunami vehicles cheap and then sell them off as "good stock".

Malaysian automotive design engineer and classic Japanese car restorer D.M. Gomez is worried that many car spare parts sent here could have been contaminated by radiation.

"To safeguard the public, I hope and trust all parts, both new and used being shipped out of Japan and coming into the Malaysian market are checked for radiation," said the 32-year-old, who is currently sourcing for rare parts for his Nissan Skyline supercar project.

Gomez expressed confidence that authorities from both sides would be vigilant, but the concern among people who restored classic Japanese cars and even modern ones was a real one.

"I also own a 1988 Honda Civic and some body parts for example, are sourced from wrecker's yards.

"I'm confident that Japanese and Malaysian government agencies will look into this."

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