Mazda destroys 4,703 shiny new cars worth $100 million


77 Responses to “Mazda destroys 4,703 shiny new cars worth $100 million”

  1. castewar says:

    A recent Wired* had an article about this very ship, or more specifically the special consulting firm that was called in to salvage the operation. As I recall, a man died attempting to retrieve the cars, so instead of whinging about how the cars should or should not have been used, let’s consider for a moment that the title to the post should read;

    “Mazda destroys 4,703 shiny new cars worth $100 million and one man’s life.”

    (*I’m surprised nobody read it – it was only a month back. Or does everyone just buy it for the wired/tired/expired?)

  2. pffft says:

    Wow – a lot of grandstanding here. Do you think EVERY car company doesn’t do calculations like this every day? Insurance companies have a value for every one of your lives. So are you going to not buy insurance either? Are you going to investigate every corporation and not buy ANYTHING from ANYONE because people protect themselves from zealous injury attorneys?

    Ger over yourselves, people. Yeah, it’s a waste. But there’s a hell of a lot of waste in this world and to blame Mazda and say you’ll never buy Mazda again is just silly.

    Well, I’ll just say unlike most things (like paying for consumer safety), grandstanding on the web is free, isn’t it?

    Corporations are deathly afraid — for good reason — of liability because people in this country sue at the drop of a hat — NO MATTER WHAT MAZDA CALLS THEM, “salvage” or otherwise.

  3. almostlucid says:

    Everyone here seems to equate this with waste and a sign of corporate irresponsibility. I disagree.

    If one person, let’s say my daughter, were to die in a crash due to one of these damaged 4703 cars, would it be worth it for the other 4702 that didn’t? I think not.

    As for the guys who rescued the Cougar Ace, they were not doing it for the cars. They were doing it because 1) it’s their job 2) $10 million 3) scrapping a freighter is more wasteful than scrapping 10,000 cars.

  4. Howard Wen says:

    It was a completely wasteful destruction, and it looks like the insurance company may be partly to blame. But I suspect Mazda is at fault, too.

    Logically, it would have made sense to strip the vehicles of their usable parts (tires, windows, control panels, exterior body components, etc.), and destroy and recycle the critical components (like the steel frame of the cars, and engines) that could have sustained damaged in the freighter. But, no, they crushed it all.

    Mazda might have been able to accept less from the insurance company for each car, had they been willing to recycle the usable components. Instead, it was probably easier for them to take a lump sum payment for each car in its entirety.

    This may bite Mazda back, since eco-friendly business practices are the trend right now. The company does not look particularly “green” in regard to how they handled this.

  5. apenzott says:

    Too late now.

    One option would have been to remove/obliterate the VIN from all locations and replace the VIN label with “PUBLIC ROAD USE PROHIBITED/PUBLIC SAFETY TESTS ONLY” That way it would be impossible for these vehicles to be registered for road use.

    But as the representative stated, “short of destroying the vehicles, it would have been impossible to prevent these vehicles from being used on the road….” by uninsured/unregistered drivers.

  6. ZekeSulastin says:

    #27: And who’s to say that many more lives were not saved by keeping the cars off the road? Especially after reading the Wired article, it seems like a Good Thing they got scrapped.

    Also, it’s not Mazda’s fault at all that an inexperienced climber loaded down with weight decided to stand on a winch preparing to climb down the side of a ship with his safety line as yet unhooked at the behest of a team leader who didn’t want to call a Coast Guard chopper to get them off safely. That’d be Darwin Award material if it was Johnson himself who made the choice to climb and not the team leader.

  7. jonathan_v says:

    I’m more and more irritated by this. Mostly by the insurance agency:

    From the article link:
    “It took more than a year to devise a plan that satisfied everyone. The city of Portland wanted assurance that nearly 5,000 cars’ worth of antifreeze, brake fluid and other hazardous goop wasn’t mishandled. 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.”

    The insurance company could have at least sold that stuff on eBay, or found some deal with Mazda to credit back the resale value of the parts. Nothing was recycled.

    I’m glad that the cars were wrecked – from a public safety and brand standpoint, it makes sense. The cars were at 60° angles for weeks in salty air – who knows what damage could have been done, if any. Unfortunately, the only way to find out would be the first few accidents and deaths.

    It’s just sad that we didn’t see parts salvaged. Now those parts will all be remade, there’s a ton of waste, and there are scraps being sent to china and back again.

  8. error404 says:

    I think the stance that

    “Hey they’re being recycled, what’s the big deal”

    Is somewhat missing the point.

    Make a car certainly, and in the process consume a HUGE amount of energy and water.

    To then turnround a scrap them is to use another great amount of energy .

    So a tremendous amount of energy was consumed for no actual benefit to anyone.


  9. fencesitter says:

    #39- Yeah, Mazda (and especially it’s parent company, Ford) probably doesn’t want a repeat of the Pinto lawsuits.

    Sorry if this seems trite and rehashed- I’ve never seen Fight Club, so I don’t know the rest of the context of that quote.

  10. pooklord says:

    In all fairness to Mazda, any other manufacturer probably would have done the same–it was an issue of liability.

    Since their vehicles had never been tested under those conditions (60 degree tilt), they could not know if they were safe–and remember if something popped up 10 years from now, they would still be liable.

  11. Piper says:

    Many people seem to be missing the point that Mazda doesn’t have many viable options here — it is at the mercy of it’s insurance company at this point. Even if they wanted to strip non-critical parts for reuse, or donate the whole lot to Goodwill, it’s not that simple. As one person has already pointed out, they can’t claim their loss if they stand to profit on salvage –salvage which would be potentially unsafe and a legal liability.
    Besides, they aren’t shredding these things into chunks so they can strew them about on the ocean floor –the auto industry is pretty adept at recycling steel and plastic.
    This is a bummer, but it was an accident. You want to talk about intentionally wasted money, resources and loss of life for no good reason? I-R-A-Q!

  12. mr_josh says:

    #51: The insurance company could have at least sold that stuff on eBay, or found some deal with Mazda to credit back the resale value of the parts. Nothing was recycled.

    eBay? Really? “That stuff” is 4700 cars, man, do you know the scale of man power that it’d take to strip 4700 cars of useful parts? The space that would be required to house said parts, the administrative man power required to track, distribute, handle payment for, shipment of, and customer service for that many parts? And how many people need a CD player for a Mazda 3? I can see the eBay listing now:

    “CD player for 2006 Mazda 3, Quantity available: 4700″ So then not only do they have the cost of actually getting that CD player up on eBay, and the infrastructure required to sell it, but then they STILL have to pay to throw away the 4500 that don’t sell.

    There is NO feasible way to completely recycle 4700 automobiles at once. To those who have suggested keeping them around for “off road use”, I promise you that those cars would end up in Mexico, South America, and elsewhere, perhaps to kill someone there. To those who have treated it as if the only factor here is that the vehicles were at an extreme angle for a long time, also keep in mind that they were at that angle in the middle of the ocean. Salt = corrosion = structural steel failure.

  13. buzzy says:

    What worries me is the subtext that Mazda don’t feel a car is safe after it’s spent a few weeks on a 60 degree angle. Would a lesser angle for a longer time constitute the same risk? Worrying for those of us who live on a hillside, which round here is more or less everyone.

    I had a chuckle at MrJosh’s assertion that “I’m glad to know that there is no way that any of these cars can make it out in to the world and potentially kill someone.” – how does this differ from any other car on the road? They can all potentially kill someone.

  14. Antinous says:

    it is at the mercy of it’s insurance company at this point

    Why would a consumer (Mazda) be at the mercy of a service provider (the insurance company)? You think the insurance company wants to lose that account? For several decades now, insurance companies have called the shots in every other industry. Do you think that doctors and nurses are the ones who fucked up your health care system? Mazda is large enough to self-insure. That’s just not a very good excuse.

    Why are so many people queuing up to give Mazda a blowjob for ‘preserving their brand’? Safety concerns, fine. Does Mazda really need a citizen army of marketing decision apologists?

  15. Kyle Armbruster says:

    You guys know that we have to have a major overhaul on our cars over here in Japan every 2 years because they are considered unsafe after 2 years of driving?

    There may be more going on here than corporate stupidity. It may also just be cultural stupidity.

  16. richlb says:

    Blame the lawyers.

    That being said, the main point of concern was that any of these cars would EVER end up being possibly sold. Even if they were donated to some worthwhile charity that agreed NEVER to sell them, all it would take is one vehicle to be resold to an unsuspecting buyer who drives it into a bridge abutment. It doesn’t even matter if the car was damaged or not, the idiot juries who would sit on the case would hear about how these cars sat sideways for weeks and all of the things that might be wrong with them. In the end, as long as they found Mazda 1% guilty, odds are the car maker would be on the hook for millions.

    My only suggestion that would have solved this was to gut the cars of their engines and use sell the chassis. Fire departments would have loved to use them to train recruits with the jaws-of-life.

  17. curtismayfield says:

    They mention that the ship was carrying Isuzu’s as well; I guess Isuzu was like “fuck it”

  18. alisong76 says:

    I think they’ve done the right thing – one person getting killed thanks to a fault caused by the mishap is one too many.

  19. tylersweeney says:

    those new mazda’s are worthless anyhow. i used to have a 2006 mazda 3 hatchback. i hit a traffic cone and the resulting damage of a single orange rubber cone nearly totaled the car.

  20. dainel says:

    You’ve all got it wrong. The reason the cars may be safe or unsafe is because you’re all driving too fast. If the speed limit were reduced to 10mph (that’s 15km/h to the rest of us non-Americans), I’m sure road fatalities will drop immediately to zero. You’d be saving 100,000 lifes every year in America alone. Millions worldwide. Think about it.

  21. error404 says:

    simply cut out the roof so they are always identifiable as right offs, and donate one to every school shop class.

    Offset the loss as a charitable donation.

  22. gandalf23 says:

    @ Antinous:

    “How would people drive if car insurance ceased to exist? Would there be a Darwinian effect whereby all the bad drivers were avehicular within two years?”

    Ummm…until a few yeas ago, some number less than 20, insurance was not required here. Sure, most people had it because it made some sense, but many did not. Hell, many still don’t, even though now it’s illegal to not have it (or a bond). I sure don’t think all the bad drivers were wiped out before insurance became mandatory. I wish.

  23. WarLord says:


    Pretty “over the top” on the comments:

    The guy with the ‘Darwin Award’ for the dead salvage guy – I think that should retire the asshat trophy for this thread…

    I salute the guys who righted the ro-ro ship and prevented those 4000 cars from “decomposing” on the sea floor. (Great article at Wired, reads like good fiction, Highly Recommmended!!)

    I happen to think that scrapping the cars was the RIGHT THING to do. I wouldn’t wish those unknown unknowable potential problems on anybody.

    Well maybe the dimwit with his Darwin comment ;)

    Enjoy the journey


  24. anantha says:


    This is what I said in my comment #13,

    So, correct me if I am wrong, but are we shipping off hazardous waste to the third world (by Asia, I assume that the recycling will happen in India/Bangladesh etc)?

    My comment stems from the fact that there are towns in India and Bangladesh where the main source of livelihood are these ship breaking yards where ships are broken down and stripped. From your caustic comment, I get that the idea that the auto recycling industry has nothing in common with ship breaking industry.
    So I guess I stand corrected/educated (sort of). Thanks for that.

  25. ivan256 says:

    Cars are one of the most recycled products on the market. If anybody thinks the materials from these cars was “wasted”, they are hugely mistaken. They will be broken down, sold for parts, and what is left will be melted down and reused. There will be very little wasted. “Scrapping” a car isn’t as environmentally unfriendly as it sounds.

  26. jackbrown says:

    Its funny that the vaunted WSJ got the story from Wired magazine. Although I don’t blame Millman for checking it out further. When I read the Wired story, the fact that the cars all got smashed with automated hammers was pretty intriguing to me too. And Joshua Davis’s (really really excellent) original story didn’t give much detail on that part.

  27. adammetal says:

    Why would Mazda want to wonder if people were wondering if their new Mazda had been flooded, or suspended sideways in a salty chemical atmosphere while they leaked all over themselves? The awesome part is that the ship was saved, and didn’t dump it’s fuel.

  28. Harlo says:

    At least tell me they blew them up beyond the airbags. Preferably three times.

    Boom boom boom!

  29. Pixel says:

    For all of you talking about “waste” from scrapping the cars, they are goign to get recycled. They aren’t just dumping the cars in a landfill. Where do you think a lot of the metal, rubber, plastic, etc for new cars comes from? Old scrapped cars!

    For those suggesting that parts should have been sold off rather than destroyed, what makes you think that if the whole car is considered defective that the individual parts wouldn’t be?
    Consider the radios, they spent a long while tipped up on one side, in the middle of a salt-water ocean. How can they be sure that this didn’t damage them somehow? They’d have to remove all the radios from the car (a very labor-intensive task) and test a decent sample size to see if they seem damaged before they could reuse them. Then if 4 years from now Mazda has a rash of radio failures in the cars those were put in and the buyers discover their new car got a radio from a scrapped car? Major lawsuit time.
    Or doors. Again the logistics of removing, testing and storing them. Then it turns out that a 60deg list and that time in salt air causes the hinge mounts to weaken and someone is killed when their door sheers loose in an accident. Again lawsuit time.

    Or suggesting the cars should be used for tech schools, or firefighter training or whatnot. How can they ensure that *not one piece* of those cars would get out into the general parts stream? What if a student at the school needs a brake caliper for his Mazda and snags one off the school’s donated car, and that caliper is damaged from the sea air and fails causing that student’s death? Once again, lawsuit time (and if you think the parents wouldn’t win, look at cases of burglers suing homeowners for injuries sustained during a burglary).

    The only way Mazda could ensure there wouldn’t be lawsuits down the line, and ensure these cars/parts couldn’t hurt someone was to destroy them. So they used the same essential process as any car being sold for scrap. The only difference being that they took extra diligence to keep the potentially compromised parts out of the parts stream. So now those cars are goign back to be made into more Mazdas, the great circle of life and all that.

    Oh and #13, your comment about hazardous waste & India/Bangladesh just shows your great ignorance of the auto recycling industry.

  30. Bazilisk says:

    Wait, are people actually being disappointed by evil behavior? Get over it! Everyone is evil. Evil is good! It is what everyone does, therefore it is good. Like cheating on a math test. If you’re shocked by evil behavior, there is something wrong with you, and you posting your annoyance at evil is a waste of time and stupid. But me posting how evil is good is great, because I am logically correct! -Most posters

  31. Antinous says:

    I sure don’t think all the bad drivers were wiped out before insurance became mandatory.

    I meant financial Darwinism. They wouldn’t be able to buy a new car once they had totaled the first couple. We’ve had mandatory insurance for a long time, yet everyone I know who’s been hit, always gets hit by an uninsured driver.

  32. Antinous says:

    Based on the Billy Cottrell principle, they should go to jail for about a millennium.

  33. gabrielm says:

    Seems to me that donating them would have done a heck of a lot more for the “brand”. Now, I will forever equate Mazda with Wasteful.

    I remember reading the wired article about the brave workers that risked their lives to save the ship and it’s cargo. What a shame.

  34. Jordan M says:

    Cougar Ace? That’s a joke right?

    Now I can’t get out of my head a 45 year old woman dressed in old pilot clothes picking up guys at the bar. I bet she has a lot of x’s carved into her bed post.

  35. Supernaut says:

    Click here for a more detailed story.

  36. Fran Taylor says:

    In the grocery business, the manufacturers are quite insistent that only undamaged merchandise is seen by the public. They often require (as part of the sales contract) that distributors and retailers set damaged goods aside, and they reimburse in full for all related costs. The manufacturers send inspectors into the stores to make sure the products are not damaged. Image is all important for retail, everyone knows that.

    These cars can be stripped down and sold as parts. Such parts are often marked in some way to indicate that they are not the same as original new factory parts. The parts are easily inspectable for damage. As any car thief will tell you, they are worth more as parts than as assembled cars.

  37. ErikO23 says:

    I don’t understand where the people at Mazda got the idea that their image was so great that donating their possibly sub-par vehicles would do irrevocable harm.

    do they think that they are already at or near the to of the heap, and thus the benefits of those donations couldn’t bring the brand as much PR as a couple of bad ones could?

    well i guess it makes a little sense in this world of bold print headlines and fine print clarifications.

    but still.. could have really helped a few people out.

  38. danipark says:

    too bad for mazda. it’s a pity for all parties involved

  39. rotorglow says:

    #26, #28, #31, #34: Kudos. You and some others hit the nail on the head: This is totally a liability thing. How about airbags failing to deploy because their little solid propellant charges went bad? (Among the environments such components are tested in, being nearly perpendicular on the Bering Sea isn’t one of them). Mazda absolutely *had* to do this, and any other manufacturer would have too.

    A scenario for the rest of you uninformed and short-sighted hand-wringers: Suppose Mazda had indeed slapped salvage titles on the cars and given them away to worthy causes. If, months or years later it turned out the airbags were faulty, or transmissions started failing because of being literally at sea, ass over teakettle, with drained fluids, wouldn’t you folks be the first ones crying, “Shame on Mazda for dumping faulty products on the unsuspecting needy, all for a tax writeoff?”

    You would. And you know it.

    #32: You live on a hill? A 60 degree hill? Please…

    It’s quite a story and a terrible shame that someone who undertook the dangerous work died. But it’s hardly a “waste” that the (handsomely paid) recovery company kept the ship and its cargo off the bottom of the ocean. Otherwise we’d be seeing 10W-30 bubbling up from the bottom for ages.

  40. Editz says:

    Tanker? Cougar Ace is a RO-RO car carrier vessel according to Wikipedia.

    @Eriko23: If Mazda could somehow have people sign waivers that guaranteed absolute freedom from liability lawsuits, then maybe I could see them donating the cars…but this is a sue-happy country.

  41. TheFool says:

    Guys, a few thousand cars is nothing to Mazda. It probably just wasn’t worth their time and effort to do something else with them… they could probably manufacture 4000 new cars and ship them for the same cost it would take to test cars, pay people manage their sales and donation, work out the legal issues, whatever. The whole brand and safety thing is just something that guy came up with to answer the question.

    Anyway the article about righting the ship (they were really trying to save the ship, not the cargo) is awesome:

  42. Ogre Lawless says:

    According to the Wired article, Mazda was concerned about the safety ramifications of vehicles that had for all intents and purposes been on their door for two weeks under less than ideal conditions. It would have been less wasteful all the way around to destructively test a few sample cars and waiver the rest, but sometimes expediency is key. No one will ever have to wonder if -their- particular Mazda is “one of those”…

  43. Takuan says:

    insurance companies are a fundamental evil

  44. Comedian says:

    From Fight Club:

    Narrator: A new car built by my company leaves somewhere traveling at 60 mph. The rear differential locks up. The car crashes and burns with everyone trapped inside. Now, should we initiate a recall? Take the number of vehicles in the field, A, multiply by the probable rate of failure, B, multiply by the average out-of-court settlement, C. A times B times C equals X. If X is less than the cost of a recall, we don’t do one.

    Business woman on plane: Are there a lot of these kinds of accidents?

    Narrator: You wouldn’t believe.

    Business woman on plane: Which car company do you work for?

    Narrator: A major one.

  45. Jake0748 says:

    Couldn’t Mazda engineers have like, maybe, uh tested the vehicles? I mean they could have taken apart a representative sample to see what had gone on inside them. I agree with the others here, incredibly wasteful. They should have been donated somewhere.

  46. mr_josh says:

    I just… I really have a hard time faulting Mazda for this. They could have helped a few people out, and then low-income-Joe is driving down the highway and a corroded ball joint fails and the car goes sailing in to on-coming traffic.

    They looked and smelled like new cars. Don’t forget that. They weren’t swamped, they weren’t obviously destroyed. If they got in to the wild, they would co-mingle so easily with any other new-ish Mazda, only who knows what kind of death traps they could be?

    4,000 cars is a LOT of cars to be letting loose on the unsuspecting public. It’s not just about brand imagery, it’s about corporate responsibility and as an advocate of consumer rights and a car enthusiast, I’m glad to know that there is no way that any of these cars can make it out in to the world and potentially kill someone.

  47. Antinous says:

    I was thinking of that, too. It’s upsettingly true for every industry.

  48. rabinowitz says:

    To build on what Mr Josh said above, surely shipments like these are insured on a certain level in case anything were to go wrong.

    My gut reaction was “wasteful!” too, but don’t kid yourself–cars are disposable these days. Think about how many car accidents there are every day. 4,000 cars isn’t that many when you think about the nation or world at large. Still, you’d think the cars could be used for movie scenes or stunt drivers.

  49. jonathan_v says:

    I would have liked to see those cars stripped for salvage/repair parts: 4,703 doors, windows, mirrors, radios, mufflers, tires, steering wheels, cup holders, etc

    The video made clear that they were not to be disassembled, but shredded. i dont understand why the tires were gone in the video though. that was odd.

  50. Echo says:

    This is nearly the most ridiculous thing I have ever seen. Mazda could have branded the titles as “salvage”, been released from liability, and not wasted all that material.

    Are we so obsessed with safety that we find it acceptable to waste on such a grand scale? Testing a few of the cars for safety defects to see how much the lot was potentially effected wasn’t an option? I just sold a Mazda and I’m glad I did. I’ll never buy another and neither should you.

  51. anantha says:

    Gabriel: It’s like the Seinfeld episode (the one with the Peterman Reality bus tour) where Elaine has an idea to bake muffins, then slice and sell only the top half. The bottom half would be donated to the homeless, who promptly protest because the muffins are missing their tops.

    The rationale was that the cars were bound for the US and they obviously did not want to risk hit with a class action suit, even if they were to donate the cars for charity.

    Essentially it was a safety issue. Before donating or selling the cars, they would have had to take apart the cars and essentially put each part of the cars under a microscope and put together the cars again. Even then, without precedence, it would have cost more money to design fool proof tests to re-certify these cars for road use, hence the decision to trash them.

    So Mazda was being “socially responsible” or “careful about their finances/image”, whichever way you look at it.

    Am surprised to get this article in the WSJ now. Looks like the Wired mag feature kinda roused interest in “L’affaire Cougar Ace”, more than year and a half after the car carrier flipped on its side.

    In a sort of similar incident, a few months ago, close to 500 new BMWs (M3 and 1 series cars) were damaged while being transported on “The Courage”. As per this NY Times piece, the value of the totaled cars amounted to $6 million! The difference in this case though was that a good percentage of these cars were “Euro delivery” meaning that customers had paid for their cars, traveled to Munich and taken delivery at the BMW plant itself, driven to the nearest port for shipping (by BMW) to the US. So all BMW had to do is, turn to their insurance company to reimburse the customers or give them new cars. In the case of these now trashed Mazdas, none of those cars had been bought yet by customers.

    Another thing that hit me on reading the WSJ times article was this line – Moments later, metal shards — most no bigger than an ashtray — sprinkle onto a mountain of scrap near Schnitzer’s dock. There, a freighter prepares to take the scrap back to Asia where it will get recycled.

    So, correct me if I am wrong, but are we shipping off hazardous waste to the third world (by Asia, I assume that the recycling will happen in India/Bangladesh etc)?

  52. st vincent says:

    Yep, much uninformed posturing on this thread.

    Waste sucks, indeed, it REALLY sucks, but you just can’t impose the standards you’d use as an individual on a large scale operation like automobile manufacturing. There is much more at stake here than the material value of a few units of product.

    Yes, a few units. Sure, 4,703 sounds like a lot, but we’re talking about an operation that sells hundreds of thousands of cars per year. Mazda sold 1.2 million vehicles in 2005 alone.

    Let’s just call a year’s production even 1 million for sake of argument: 4,703 would represent less than half of one percent of a year’s production… just one year.

    Picture yourself as a manufacturer of most any product. Cars, computers, fortune cookies, Hello Kitty dolls… take your pick. It took you decades to carefully build this business and its reputation… a huge investment of time, money, human effort and resources. Would you risk all of that over the cost of 0.47 percent of one year’s inventory that was of questionable quality, or worse, that could potentially harm your customers?

    What’s the bigger waste: The material costs of a few thousand vehicles out of millions, or the destruction of a productive, viable business and thousands of people’s livelihoods over a trashed reputation?

    These days, you don’t get points for product quality in the auto biz… you just get them taken away if it’s not there.

    And if you don’t think maintaining a reputation for quality matters, take a look at what has happened to the U.S. auto industry. Decades of foisting poor quality and damaged goods off of their customers has decimated their reputations, and despite their best efforts, the effects of their short-sightedness will be an albatross around their necks for years to come, no matter how good their new products may be.

    In the bigger picture, Mazda did the right thing.

  53. Antinous says:

    insurance companies are a fundamental evil

    How would people drive if car insurance ceased to exist? Would there be a Darwinian effect whereby all the bad drivers were avehicular within two years?

  54. Fran Taylor says:

    Stripping goods damaged in shipment for parts is nothing new. Happens all the time. This is what the ‘grey market’ is all about. It is well understood by all that these are not OEM parts, that there are potential issues, etc. The cut-rate prices of these such reflect their lack of OEM heritage. It’s really just another form of recycling.

  55. cayton says:

    I agree with Mr Josh. Plus, to all those shouting ‘Wasteful!’, I imagine that everything that can be recycled, will be recycled.

  56. Antinous says:

    you just can’t impose the standards you’d use as an individual on a large scale operation like automobile manufacturing

    Theirs is a high and lonely destiny.

  57. Skipper says:

    I applaud them for the forward thinking that went into this. as far as donating them what could be worse than pawning off a possibly defective product on someone that couldn’t afford to have it fixed. hmmm along with the possible safety issues it raises, have you ever seen what brake fluid will do to vacuum lines?

  58. Takuan says:

    yep. Cuz the fambly of the viktim woulda shot ‘em.

  59. JSG says:

    It is regrettable, but understandable. Imagine if Mazda had sold the 4000 cars, and then something happened to them, if the chassis had bent, if the engine had been water logged, if the interior of the car had black mold growing on it. The 4000 people that bought those 4000 cars would have an excellent chance at collecting on a lawsuit, Mazda would be put out of business.

    Those 4000 cars were not wasted, I can imagine that the metal was melted down and used again, the plastic too. The rubber could be sent to dealerships to be used as replacement parts. The other parts that were removed, i.e. radio, gauges, glass, lights, tires, etc, are also used as replacement parts. The folks at Mazda are no fools, if any business can make a buck off of a minor accident like this, they will.

  60. Not a Doktor says:

    I’m sure one of those “lemons” would be in better shape than my junker.


  61. rollerskater says:

    they made the right decision, beyond the price of litigation stemming from claims of compromised safety, if word that MAZDA was selling unsafe cars hit the news their brand would sink as fast as you can say “firestone tires.”

    additionally, we live in an era where even if informed consumers signed a waiver of liability, they STILL have the right to sue.

  62. st vincent says:


    Fine, take my comments out of context.

    That said, I could have stated that a bit more elegantly and clearly, to be sure.

    My point: Wasting some potentially defective product is less of an evil than wasting the efforts and livelihoods of thousands of people via a trashed reputation.

    But yeah, corporations are evil, down with the man, man… ooo, lookit the shiny steampunk laptop!!!

  63. Antinous says:

    corporations are evil, down with the man

    You worded it that way. I have nothing against Mazda, but when you make a point blank suggestion that a large corporation doesn’t need to be concerned about large scale waste, I must disagree. That rationale has been used too many times in too many places to excuse corporate malfeasance: dumping toxins into rivers, getting government payouts, not providing safe working conditions. “But think of the jobs!”

  64. Matt Volatile says:


    “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.”

    So no, none of them went for spares. None of them were recycled. Even testably or even obviously good non-critical parts – windscreens, batteries, wheels, tires, panels, interiors – wilfully destroyed.

    This is pretty horrific.

  65. naharnahekim says:

    Antinous:but when you make a point blank suggestion that a large corporation doesn’t need to be concerned about large scale waste, I must disagree.

    Actually, I think St Vincent made it clear that the scale of the “waste” was indeed very small given the entirety of the industry.

  66. Matt Volatile says:

    @ Myself

    By “recycled” I obviously meant “recycled directly”, used on other vehicles. It seems that once loads of time, energy and money was spent turning these cars into metal chippings, they will be melted down / recycled.

  67. ThreeFJeff says:

    @17 (JSG): Only the raw materials are being recycled. None of the cars are being used as spare parts–the insurance company already paid for all of them and didn’t want Mazda (Ford) double dipping.

  68. Antinous says:

    the scale of the “waste” was indeed very small given the entirety of the industry

    4.703 cars is not small scale. It’s a huge waste no matter what the size of the industry. Resource management on a global scale mostly boils down to everybody making minuscule inroads against waste. If those cars were really trashed rather than recycled, it’s a criminal waste of resources.

  69. gabrielm says:


    Essentially it was a safety issue.

    I disagree. To Mazda it was a “brand issue” and to me is an “environmental” issue. They could have spent a little money to have the vehicles safety inspected, slapped on a salvage title and given them to a good cause. I am sure that there are a lot of low income people out on the road in much more unsafe vehicles. This route would have given them a great return on investment when it comes to branding.

    Instead, they decide to do the above interview where they casually talk about destroying the cars. They didn’t even try to label it recycling…

    … but, we do agree on one thing: That was a great Seinfeld episode.

  70. Pyrokinetic says:

    I call bullshit on this.

    A friend of mine bought a VW Jetta in 2002. Prior to his purchase, that exact same Jetta had been mounted to a vertically rotating disc affixed to the wall of the Los Angeles Auto Show. Imagine if you glued a model car to the hand of a clock hanging from a wall. It rotated that way. It was like that for the duration of the show (~3 days). After the show, Volkswagen took it down and sold it at a dealership to my friend, where he received it as a gift for graduating high school.

    He joked when he bought it that it might have somehow been damaged while turning like a clock on a wall, but shrugged it off.

    The car drove perfectly fine, and he drove it for years. I think at one point later on in it’s life the plastic mounts holding the power window control arm to the glass in the window mechanism jammed, and the window slid into the gap in the door and shattered, but I think that was a known issue with that model year of Jettas and probably wouldn’t have much to do with the car hanging on the wall.

    I digress.

    Do you ever see how they display cars at some dealerships?

  71. Takuan says:

    Better a Mazda. Did Mazda kill the electric car?

  72. digit says:

    truly shamefull display of waste, were i to ever buy another car it certainly wont be a mazda affiliated one.

  73. rotorglow says:

    Antinous: Why are so many people queuing up to give Mazda a blowjob for ‘preserving their brand’? Safety concerns, fine. Does Mazda really need a citizen army of marketing decision apologists?

    Good question (not that I agree with the image). Maybe because the reactionaries keep harping on the fact that “they’ll never buy another Mazda and neither should anyone else,” rather than acknowledging the safety concerns as the overriding factor.

    Just for once, it’d be cool if someone poked their head back in here and publicly said, “Good point. I hadn’t thought of that.”

    There I go again: forgetting this is the Internet.

  74. paulatz says:

    The fact that the cars could be sold for 100M$ does not mean that they cost that much to produce. Nevertheless, it is a painful waste, provided the rising cost of energy and lack of raw materials.

  75. dbarak says:

    The Japanese built cars for us out of our old razor blades… maybe we can build razor blades for them out of their old (new) cars.

  76. Deadmeat says:

    @ 48:
    The car drove perfectly fine, and he drove it for years. I think at one point later on in it’s life the plastic mounts holding the power window control arm to the glass in the window mechanism jammed, and the window slid into the gap in the door and shattered, but I think that was a known issue with that model year of Jettas and probably wouldn’t have much to do with the car hanging on the wall.

    You are correct. That’s a known issue with a couple of VW models during that time.

  77. Chad says:

    “Hey, did you see the story [in the WSJ/on the innertube/in email/on 60 Minutes] about someone buying a Mazda lemon that turned out to be underwater in the Pacific for six weeks, BEFORE Mazda sold it? I’m never buying a Mazda again, if they’re willing to sell those!”

    Don’t let the word “brand” let you sneer at Mazda’s behavior. Mazda is worried about the reputation it’d get when someone purchases one of those things off a used car lot in good faith, and then wrecks in a fireball when a barnacle clogs up the brake fluid line and two car-loads of people die. A 0.01% chance of a) people dying and b) awful reputation (“brand tarnishing”) == no sales — all is much smaller than the cost and waste of a barge of cars.

    Go sneer at something worthwhile.

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