A Canadian insurance firm put its metal where its mouth is, and invited the media to watch as they crushed a pair of high-end SUVs recovered from people linked to organized crime, so no other consumer would take on the potential safety and financial risk.
That is, after they stripped the car for parts first.
Economic Insurance (EI) held a display at Bodyline Auto Recyclers in Hamilton to crush a Cadillac Escalade and GMC Denali, both 2005 models that were stolen from EI policy holders.
"Economical (Insurance)'s decision to destroy the vehicles ensures no other consumers will be victimized, at least in relation to these vehicles," said Carey Smith, director of investigations at the Ontario Motor Vehicle Industry Council (OMVIC).
Acting Superintendent of Toronto Police Traffic Services, Suzanne Redman, wouldn't confirm the cars had ties to organized crime — she would only say the investigation started in Toronto and the vehicles were stolen in Ontario — but she did say auto theft costs Canadians a pretty penny.
"On average in Canada a vehicle is stolen every three and a half minutes, and that equates to 420 vehicles a day," Redman said. "It is estimated that auto theft costs Canadians approximately one billion dollars a year... These losses are made up through insurance premiums costing each Canadian policy holder approximately $35 annually on his or her insurance premiums."
The two vehicles crushed Tuesday were reported stolen in 2009. EI paid out $56,000 to the policy holders for their losses. The next year, EI says the Escalade was recovered during an investigation into organized crime. The Denali wasn't far behind.
While Redman wouldn't confirm if there were more crimes connected to the thefts, EI's main message was that stolen vehicles, acquired in private sales, can be a hodgepodge of different vehicles.
Javier Ibanez, vice-president of EI, described them as "Frankenstein" vehicles. He added there's no way to know they're safe structurally, mechanically, and in the case of an accident. He, as well as OMVIC, urged consumers to purchase vehicles through dealers.
"There's no consumer protection legislation that covers private sales," Smith said. "The purchasers would have unknowingly taken on a huge financial risk. … Who would they sue? How much would it cost? And would they even be able to find the seller again?"
For these pair of SUVs, those questions will never have to be asked.