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Mitchell Says Total Losses Down Despite Aging Vehicle Population

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Mitchell International, Inc., has released the first quarter 2010 edition of its Industry Trends Report (ITR) – the company’s quarterly publication that highlights industry-related trends, news items and statistics. Mitchell is reporting that total losses have been decreasing despite the aging vehicle population on the road today.

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This edition’s Quarterly Feature, "Do You Really Know Where Total Losses Are Trending?", by Mitchell’s Vice President of Industry Relations Greg Horn details Mitchell’s in-depth examination surrounding the trend of declining total loss claims – a phenomenon occurring despite a severe U.S. economic slowdown that has seen approximately 6 million fewer cars and trucks sold in 2009 than in previous years.

With the average age of a typical vehicle today at an unprecedented high of nearly 10 years, many would expect total losses to rise correspondingly, particularly since total loss claims are typically declared once the estimated cost of repairs climbs to over 80 percent of the Actual Cash Value of the vehicle, where most older vehicles fall, Horn says.

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Horn’s examination of Mitchell’s multiyear claims data breaks down the unexpected results and explains that the pool of older vehicles carrying first-party coverage is shrinking. Older vehicles on U.S. roads today are increasingly under-insured or not insured at all as cash-strapped drivers reduce or drop their coverage (The Insurance Research Council notes that an all-time high of 16.1 percent of Americans are driving uninsured vehicles). Therefore, no total loss claim is made by the owners of these vehicles in the event of a collision.

"Tough economic times will likely continue to spur the decrease in total losses that are paid for by collision coverage because the pool of older vehicles that has been so sharply reduced will continue to contract further,” Horn says. “In addition to the underinsured phenomenon, there are substantially fewer older cars and trucks available to purchase: The federal Cash for Clunkers program alone took approximately 690,000 older vehicles off the roads, fewer trade-ins are occurring in a time of depressed new car sales, and the lease financing collapse has made fewer cars available from this traditional source of used fleet vehicles."

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The ITR’s second feature, "Technology to the Rescue: Use Innovation to Help Speed Report of Losses," also by Greg Horn, discusses how insurers can use technology to improve the time from date of loss to date of report. Horn describes why the most significant obstacle to speedy claims resolution is often the claimant’s delayed response in reporting an accident to the insurer, likely due to lack of experience with the claims process.

He points out that if policyholders know that technology such as cell phone applications and online tools that give them visibility into the claims process and keep them informed and up-to-date are available, they may have a less daunting view of the process and be inclined to take action more quickly.

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Other points of interest in the current issue of Mitchell’s ITR include:

• Mitchell’s Q4-2009 data reflect an average gross initial Collision appraisal value of $2,842-$145 less than this same period last year. Applying the indicated development factor suggests a final Q4-2009 average gross collision appraisal value of $2,913-a value $74 less than the same quarter in 2008.

• Q4-2009, the initial comprehensive average severity was $2,501-$22 more than the same quarter in the previous year. Applying the prescribed development factor for this data sets yields an anticipated final value of $2,562-$83 higher than the Q4-2008 performance.  

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More information:

• Download a copy of the ITR at www.mitchell.com

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