When Your New Porsche Is on a Burning Ship in the Atlantic Ocean

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Burning Ship in the Atlantic Ocean

Ordering your brand new luxury car is usually the stuff of dreams for most enthusiasts. But, as proven by the Pandemic, not everything goes to plan. Imagine the scene: You’re sitting at home sipping on coffee and suddenly your dealer calls and tells you that your dream car is possibly on fire and set adrift in the Atlantic ocean. Well, this is exactly what happened to several customers after the ship “Felicity Ace” caught fire after leaving the German port of Emden on February 10th. The ship was loaded with several Volkswagen Group products ranging from basic models to several Lamborghinis, Porsche, and even Bentleys. The shipment also includes the founder of The Smoking Tire, Matt Farah’s Frozen Berry Metallic Porsche 718 Spyder sports car.

The ship was scheduled to arrive in Dashville, Rhode Island on February 23 with an estimated 1100 Porsches onboard among the rest of the shipment. While initial estimates put the number of cars on board at 2500, Volkswagen has since revealed that the number is close to 4000, or 3965 to be exact, all of which were declared a total loss because of fire damage. The current losses to VW Group are estimated to be nearly $155 million, making it one of the more expensive automotive disasters in recent history. Fortunately, most of the damage is covered by insurance according to VW. All 22 of the crew members are also safe and well.

The fire started on February 16th when the ship was 1,000 miles off Portugal, and all the crew members were evacuated on the same day. But, because of the nature of the fire and rough seas, rescue and salvage operations were delayed. A lot of the Volkswagen products on board were electric, making the fire even harder to put out. After continuously burning for 5 days, the fire slowly subsided by February 21st. After their recent analysis, the total value of the goods on board was nearly $438 million, out of which $401 million were cars. As of now, the ship is being towed away and there’s no smoke from it.

While this may seem like an isolated incident, cargo ships going up in flames are more common than you think. Over the last two decades, 8 such incidents have been reported, the most recent one being Grande America which was destined for Brazil back in 2019. The ship had 37 highly collectible Porsches onboard including a 911 GT2 RS which amounted to nearly $370,000 back then. Another ship called the Golden ray with more than 4000 vehicles including trucks and SUVs onboard also capsized the same year.

While salvage teams are doing their best, most manufacturers claim that a car is not fit to drive again after it’s been exposed to saltwater. This will eventually lead to excessive corrosion and electrical damage. According to a former merchant mariner, the damage to all the cars onboard the Felicity Ace will be extensive, as all the cars are packed together in the cargo hold, making it a lot harder to put out the flames. So far, no causes of the fire have been confirmed.

So, back to the question at hand, what’s the recourse for clients expecting their new cars? Since all the cars are covered by commercial insurance policies, all the losses would be addressed to the insurance companies. The customers now have two options; they can either resubmit their orders for cars and wait the same period again while keeping their deposit placed, or order some other car that takes their fancy.

According to Matt Farah who ordered a customized Porsche Boxter Spyder in August of 2021, his dealer has already been in contact with him. According to the dealer, he will receive another build and will have to wait another 8 months for his car to be delivered. Farah has already decided to reorder his same spec despite being offered a chance to make modifications to the build by Porsche. Porsche also told him that his replacement was a priority. Like Farah, most of the other customers have also taken a similar decision to wait for their replacement vehicles.

According to a forum with Porsche 718 owners, a lot of owners tracked their cars to be on the ship. Porsche’s tracking service also includes a disclaimer about the incident.

Fortunately, because of the highly expensive nature of most cars onboard, the manufacturers will now prioritize building those orders again to avoid losing their customer base. This is exactly what happened during the Golden Ray incident, when Porsche decided to build the 911 GT2 RS units again in the same order as the first time, delaying the production of other vehicles.

Porsche already has plans to take similar measures with the Felicity Ace incident, replacing every car affected. The cars will be as close as possible to the originally ordered specification. However, if the customers don’t want to wait, Porsche will refund their deposit.

So far, Lamborghini representatives have refused to comment on how they’re handling the situation. Several Lamborghini Aventador supercars with massive naturally aspirated V-12 powertrains were onboard the ship. On the other hand, several of the Volkswagen branded cars were all-electric models like the new ID.4 crossover, making it even harder to extinguish the fire because of their lithium-ion batteries.

According to Bentley, 189 of their cars were on the ship and replacement vehicles will take priority. Because both Bentley and Lamborghini sell more expensive models than Porsche, their losses are understandably higher, with several models costing more than $300,000.

The most recent reports suggest that all the flames have subsided and the ship has been towed to an area of the Azores according to Matsui OSK, the company that operates the Felicity Ace cargo ship. The ship was escorted with two tugs and a large salvage craft with additional firefighting capabilities if required. Fortunately, no oil leaks were observed during the whole incident. Authorities still haven’t traced back to the origin of the fire.

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