The Groupama Insurance Saga
In August 2007 I had a small bump in my aero after being caught out by the auto box which I was unfamiliar with still due to driving manuals.
Basically I turned left at a roundabout and the box kicked down - from what others have said it’s likely this was a double kick down. This kicked out the rear clipping and smashing the rear alloy on an obnoxious kerb. The car then span clipping a barrier at an angle with the lower front bumper before coming to a rest.
Not the most dramatic of bumps that’s for sure and with fully comprehensive insurance, full protected no claims & a spare supra I felt pretty certain an insurance claim would be fairly simple particularly given the rarity of this vehicle and it’s outstanding condition.
Sadly however Groupama insurance have other ideas and a catalogue of incompetence has followed.
Upon first contacting Groupama and informing them of the incident I was somewhat bemused and shocked when the operator informed me a car of this age would usually go strait to a scrap yard. I enquired if this was standard practice and the reply was yes! Astonished at this answer we preceded to book an estimator to come a visit the vehicle - which I’m glad to say I got lifted back to my home!
Because of the wait for the estimator from DK Autos - a local body repairers, I decided to make life easier for the estimator and stripped the front of my vehicle down sorting reusable parts and unsalvageable components. Given the fact the car is MY PROPERTY stripping the vehicle down is my call, NOT the insurance companies as they attempted to argue.
As you can see from the above photo, the Supra is not built with any hint of a crumple one or pedestrian safety zone in mind! This is an old fashioned design where harder was considered better! Sadly it’s the sheer strength of the bumper former that’s caused damage to the side members - pushing them over to one side as the weight of the engine hit the barrier.
The passenger side member has bent ever so slightly, forward of the anti roll bar mount. There are no steering or major suspension components attached to these side members as the Supra is a sub frame based car - these being totally separate entities and undamaged.
DK autos came back with an estimate of around £3000 to repair the car excluding parts.
I HAVE A DONOR CAR TO TAKE PARTS FROM - THE ENTIRE FRONT BUMPERS ETC OF THE SUPRA ARE BOLT ON, HOOD, WINGS, BUMPER, BRACKETS, NOSE CONE, LIGHTS ETC ETC.
The only parts required new for sure would be and intercooler and radiator - both easily obtainable as after market parts at very reasonable prices.
It is extremely likely I can remove the metalwork from my donor vehicle as, the panels are only spot welded into position and mastic sealed, these are easily drilled out and the panels re fitted with spot welds in a different position.
The wings may be reusable, if not these to can be taken from my donor vehicle as can the hood although, I feel the hood, which only has a small 3” ripple in it can be cold dented.
This breakdown gives details of the bent metal (in orange) - as you can see not many panels require replacement. None of them are structural and simply spot weld on - this includes the end hanger parts of the side members (in yellow)
The slightly bent side members can be jigged into place very easily then the replacement hanger section welded on.
During this whole process I documented the strip down extensively with clear hi resolution photos should there be any questions in the future and for rebuild purposes.
The estimate went through to Groupama who then came up with the following problems:
1) They argued I had not given them the correct details of the vehicle - well, according to the paperwork & cover note supplied to me by A-Plan - the sellers of this policy, I had indeed given the correct details. Groupama however had put the incorrect car and incorrect details on their policy documents. They had listed the car as a MK4 supra GT Aero not the MK3 GT Aero Limited as supplied by myself and A-Plan. This argument promptly fell on it’s arse.
2) The next argument came from Groupama that I had not informed them the paint had been changed to a pearlescent finish and argued this was not standard. Incorrect - the pearlescent was a factory standard finish for this model of vehicle and is original to this car - had they taken the time to list the CORRECT car in the first place they would have known this also!
So with those snag points out of the way they decided one of their engineers should come and view the vehicle.
Enter David White, one of groupamas engineers.
David White was extremely positive about the repair of this vehicle. David White claimed Groupama would rather have a vehicle repaired and keep it’s customers happy than scrap vehicles. When asked directly by my Farther if the vehicle would be repaired the answer was a firm “yes”
He explained given the condition of the vehicle and it’s extreme rarity there would be no question of repair and the whole meeting was very encouraging.
Now imagine my shock and supprise when Groupama called and informed me - same day as visit - that the car was going to be written off! How I asked given all David White had said in the morning diuring his visit.
Enter David Snudden - Regional engineer (accountant) It seems David Snudden has big problems with the repair method of repairing the side members and insists such members should be replaced. David Snudden feels given the extensive? chassis damage, this vehicle would be dangerous to return to the road and should be written off as a CAT B!!
Below is detailed the estimate from David & David, note the highlighted parts clearly available from the donor vehicle as they all bolt on, also note the high cost of paint which has been charged for twice!
As you can see the above estimate is not only totally inaccurate it seems to have been deliberately compiled to give a bleak outlook for repair. The estimate also virtually ignores the fact I have a donor vehicle and the fact I will do a vast quantity of the work myself excluding welding and paint work.
David Snudden also has a problem with me doing some of the work myself claiming he has no idea of the quality of workmanship etc. Since when did you need a certificate to work on you own vehicle?
So David & David managed to come up with a £10,000 repair bill for the front of this car - somewhat unrealistic don’t you think?
They also instructed (advised)DK Autos not to deal with my vehicle anymore thus making life extremely difficult for me when it came to estimates and throwing ideas round with a company - bizarre behaviour don’t you think?
This brings me to the CAT B classification. First let’s look at the categories and what they equate to as indicated by any site on the internet and engineers I have spoken to;
Cat A is for burn outs and gutted vehicles. Only value is in the baled weight at a metal recyclers.
Cat B is where the vehicle is no longer safe to put back on the road and must be broken or crushed. These can only be sold to registered dismantlers with an EPA waste licence. They are actually sold as parts and are no longer considered as a vehicle. There is no economic consideration involved, purely a safety one. Vehicles that have been flooded are normally written off as a cat B.
Cat C is where the car is repairable but is not economic to do so. Think older cars and or ones where the chassis needs jigging.
Cat D is where the vehicle is repairable and would be economic to do so (cost of salvage + cost of repairs < Pre accident value) but the insurance company has decided not to repair the vehicle. This could be due to excessive storage or recovery costs, etc.
So given this information why exactly is David Snudden hell bent on classing this vehicle as Cat B?
Groupama then challenged me to get an engineers report for the vehicle. many companies would not do this as they worked for Groupama so it “was not in their best interests” - A real customer service industry the insurance business it seems!
After a bit of calling about I found a company who were extremely helpful and an engineer was dispatched at my cost. The outcome was a rather predictable one as follows:
So here is an independent engineer disagreeing with David Snuddens categorisation as well as 100% of all other people who have seen this vehicle and photos of it!!
I sent this report off along with the following letter:
Your Ref: ???
With reference to the above claim, please find enclosed an independent engineer’s report regarding the vehicle. This report clearly states this car should, if written off, be classed as a category C not B and that I should have the option of repairing the vehicle should you continue to insist you will not repair it under my policy.
Since your engineers David Snudden and David White decided to write my vehicle off as cat B I have sought advice from a number of engineers and car body shops regarding this vehicle, I have also posted details on a specialist forum including estimate details. Not one individual is in agreement with your categorisation of this vehicle. Nor can they understand exactly how you come to reach the exceptionally high cost of repair in your estimates.
I have included a copy of your estimate with several unrequired parts highlighted. It seems as if your estimate has been compiled to look deliberately expensive not to mention, having a number of unnecessary parts and double charged parts, such as paint, which appears twice on the estimate at a cost of £916.00 + VAT each time!
You seem to have virtually ignored the fact that I have a donor vehicle for parts. This vehicle was and still is in perfect roadworthy condition and was used daily by myself for the last ten years until it was replaced with the newer model which sadly, is the subject of this claim.
It is clear that your engineers doubt my ability to both correctly specify which parts are common to both vehicles and also to repair the vehicle safely. This I find extremely insulting, particularly given my experience of these vehicles and the specialist knowledge at my disposal, both of which can be verified.
Turning to the parts you have listed, I can immediately remove £1866.28 in unnecessary new parts, as these are direct “bolt on” parts from the donor vehicle. When speaking to independent engineers and chassis repair shops it’s highly doubtful the chassis legs will need replacing as there are industry standard techniques in place to repair these. This would remove a further £1493.07 from the bill. Add to this the double charged paint cost at £916.00 + VAT each time.
As the vehicle is fully repairable at a reasonable cost, I would seek to have payment made in lieu from yourselves. As indicated in your report, this would be between £6500 - £7000. I would then undertake to have the repairs carried out myself & my insurance cover would continue as per my current schedule.
If, however, you still insist the vehicle is in your opinion, BER, then I would only be willing to accept your offer of £6500 less my excess of £300 and a figure of £250 to buy back the car provided the vehicle is correctly classed as cat C, thereby allowing me to repair the vehicle and my policy to continue as per the current schedule.
I should also like to point out the fact that this vehicle is one of only two in the country and in immaculate condition. For its rarity alone it should be repaired. Furthermore, a great many interested parties including engineers and body shops, have all expressed reservations as to why Groupama are so intent on classing this vehicle as cat B and without exception expressed the opinion “somebody wants the car, it will never reach a scrap yard or be written off if collected”.
This I find extremely worrying and if it should prove necessary am prepared to take this matter further and notify the appropriate regulatory bodies, although I hope this does not prove necessary.
This claim continues to be followed by and is of great interest to the Toyota Supra community particularly given your incomprehensible estimate and seemingly immovable stance with regard to repair.
I await hearing from you.
Groupamas response to this was the usual coputer generated rubbish:
We write in reference to the independent engineer’s report that you have submitted to us.
Unfortunately, it does not include all the information we require in order to take into consideration. Please contact them to supply a full breakdown of labour, parts and repair methos. Without this, we are unable to reconsider the Total Loss category that has been placed on the vehicle.
Please quote your claim number ********* on all correspondence
So more research has followed and lead me to the official Toyota Supra repair manual as written by the Gods of the Supra - Toyota themselves. In it is stated how to repair the front of the side members of the supra - this details the exact method David Snudden has such issues with and firmly believes is a dangerous method of repair and warrants a cat B writeoff.
I am now in the process of sending this information off to Groupama to justify why they are arguing with the official means of repair as stated by the vehicle manufacturer and just how this equates to a CAT B write off instead of the industry standard simple repair clearly documented.
I would also like them to answer the many questions posed in my previous letter as, to date, they have not bothered to justify any of their decisions
Latest update: 05-02-08
After sending the above to Groupama David was good enough to give me a call and have a chatt. The outcome of this is below:
As per our telephone conversation this morning I can confirm the following;
I have spoken with a Toyota Approved Repairer who confirms that the repair method stipulated in the attachments are viable subject to parts availability. I then spoke with the Toyota main dealer in Waterlooville who looked in to the chassis leg cost and availability. They suggest that the last known price for the chassis rail was circa £415 plus VAT each. However their information suggests that these components are no longer serviced but would need the model code to confirm this.
I propose viewing the vehicle tomorrow morning as agreed as close to 9 a.m. as possible. I will then consider to what extent chassis replacement is necessary. I will then re-investigate the availability of said components and subject to the outcome of this, advise you if any change in decision is warranted.
As advised this morning, neither I or Groupama would endorse the use of second hand structural members that had been cut from other vehicles and re-welded to another. This is not good industry practice and is not endorsed by either manufacturer or Thatcham Motor Insurance Repair Research Centre. We have no issue with second hand/recycled components being utilised if they are not structural or of a steering and suspension related nature.
I look forward to meeting with you tomorrow.
So basically this mainly rests on the side members being available for the vehicle. I am pretty certain these parts are the same on a UK spec MA70 chassis.
Model #: E-JZA70 - BJPZZ
Frame #: JZA70 - 0011923
If anybody has any input to this, please send to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Thought I better wrap this thread up.
Settlement has been received from Groupama now and I have kept the car as salvage.
Thanks to David for supplying the detailed information Groupama should have supplied months ago instead of making me jump through hoops!
He admitted the original estimate is extremely inaccurate & I find it inexcusable Groupama made such an issue over the welding of leg ends forcing me to provide the information to them - this THEY should have checked in first place!
This was a repairable car which, had I of driven to a garage and forked out myself would have been back on the road by now completely legal and insured using standard repair methods.
Going through an insurance company is a bad move because of all the pathetic rules and regulations that the industry is controlled by allegedly to protect us, unfortunately this is also an incredibly hypocritical system - like most systems in this country!!!
How they can rule the quality of parts from a second hand car cannot be guaranteed yet gladly take your money and insure a second hand car - with no checks on quality & integrity - is quite beyond me and utterly hypocritical.
If you are a car enthusiast with common sense - insurance really is not worth the paper it's written on.
If you crash your old car, take it to a garage first & avoid insurance if at all possible.
The system is deliberately biased against you by H&S quangos who’s purpose is simply to provide "jobs for the boys" and waste our money while encouraging people to turn to rogue repairers - something ALL these types of systems encourage, they just don't work.
Thank you to all that have offered advice and support through this saga, it's been greatly appreciated. If anything this has definitely been a learning experience for all.
A replacement car has been purchased and details are posted elsewhere in the site.
Today this vehicle was inspected for the purpose of expressing an opinion
as to the extent of recent accident damage, to give an opinion as to whether
this vehicle is repairable and to indicate if this vehicle should have been
categorized as a “CAT B” write off.
This vehicle was presented for inspection with, amongst other components, the front bumper, head lamps and engine radiator removed. This vehicle was raised by means of a hydraulic trolley jack and axle stands to enable this inspection to take place.
Close inspection of this vehicle revealed that the main areas of damage concerned the following items.
Both front chassis legs were noted as being damaged having been forced over to the left hand side. This has resulted in the chassis legs kinking on the inside surfaces. It was also noted that the chassis front cross member had split in the centre.
The forward surfaces of both front inner wings had been lightly damaged and the left front wing had bowed outwards along with the wing to door gap closing. The front panel and head lamp support panels have also been damaged. No other areas of damage could be found.
It is my opinion that this vehicle is repairable and that the extent of the
damage is not excessive. From information supplied it appears that it is
possible to obtain all the necessary parts to carry out the repairs noted to
the damage listed above.
In view of the extent of the damage I am of the opinion that this vehicle
should be placed in category “C” and not “B” as indicated by the insurance
The engineer’s opinion, being based on a physical assessment, written and
verbal information supplied, observations made and previous experience: