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Hail pummels Melbourne car yards

Not-so-cute dimples: Hail damage to cars could amount to millions of dollars in Victoria.

Dealers face damage bill in the millions after hail smashes car stocks in Victoria

General News logo8 Mar 2010

DOZENS of Melbourne car dealers are counting the cost of Saturday’s massive hailstorm which damaged hundreds of new and used cars on forecourts across the eastern suburbs.

The damage bill to cars alone is expected to run into millions of dollars, with dealers already signaling plans to hold “hail damage” sales at discounts of up to $15,000 to clear away the mess.

Hail stones as big as tennis balls dented panels and smashed windows as the storm – a remnant of the same tropical system that inundated areas of Queensland and New South Wales last week – cut a swathe across the middle of the Melbourne metropolitan area in what has been described as a one-in-100-year hail storm.

One of the worst-hit areas was the outer eastern suburb of Ferntree Gully, where the largest hail scored a bull’s-eye on about 12 dealerships lined up in a popular car shopping strip on Burwood Highway.

In scenes reminiscent of Sydney’s Parramatta Rd disaster some years ago, almost every vehicle parked in the open suffered some damage. Broken rear windows also let torrential rain flow into the cars, compounding the problem.

Toyota dealer Gavin Werner, of Graham Werner Toyota, told the Herald Sun that only 40 or 50 of his stock of 230 new cars and 110 used cars had escaped damage in the storm.

Mr Werner, who valued his stock at $8 million, said he had watched helplessly from the showroom on Saturday afternoon as the hail hammered the cars, some of which he believed would have to be written off.

He said the dealership had been preparing for a grand opening of its new Burwood Highway facility.

“Now we are going to have a hail sale instead of a grand opening,” he was quoted as saying.

Thousands of private cars were also pummeled, showing evidence of glass damage and dimpled panels over a wide area, from Nunawading to Belgrave in the Dandenong Ranges.

In inner areas of the city, more damage was caused when dozens of cars were trapped in flooded streets. In many cases, the hail was so thick on the ground that it blocked storm water drains. Shredded leaves brought down by the hail also contributed to the problem.

Some of the more minor hail damage to car panels will be repaired using paintless repair techniques, but others hit by the biggest hail stones are being assessed to see if they are worth repairing.

Unlike many car dealers in the northern states where hard lessons have been learned about hail damage, few Melbourne dealers have hail netting to protect vehicles stored in the open air, as hail in the southern state is rarely sufficiently big to cause panel damage.

Most manufacturers, however, pay to store wholesale new-vehicle stocks under protective netting at storage facilities, just in case.

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