Typhoon Hato

Typhoon Hato teaches Hong Kong’s luxury car owners a lesson in vanity

Here’s five cars that make better sense for driving in storm-lashed Hong Kong

PUBLISHED : Friday, 01 September, 2017, 6:05pm
UPDATED : Friday, 22 September, 2017, 9:23pm

Typhoon Hato destroyed a lot of vehicles on August 23. But it was the viral images of expensive, high-end cars battered and flooded by the storm’s force that made some drivers question the wisdom of owning luxury vehicles in storm-lashed Hong Kong.

A particularly harrowing image for admirers of opulent cars was that of a half-submerged Lamborghini Gallardo in a Heng Fa Chuen car park, its sleek exterior covered in mud and debris dredged up by Hato.

The forlorn state of the hapless supercar sparked online debate among observers as to where storm-ravaged vehicles stand with regards to insurance payouts.

Car insurance broker Kwiksure says it received “a lot of” of coverage enquiries and 30 claims within two days of the typhoon.

The company said there are two hidden factors insurers take into account when assessing cases of storm-damaged vehicles: depreciation and extra deductions.

Hong Kong’s overpriced new cars largely lose you money as soon as you receive the keys

“The Lamborghini is not insured with us, but it seems to be a 2013 Gallardo Coupe [that] cost HK$2.53 million when brand new,” says Kwiksure’s Neil Raymond. “If the owner has comprehensive insurance, we believe the [supercar’s] reasonable market value at accident time [depending on the individual surveyor report] is around HK$1.5 million to HK$1.6 million.” In other words, this Lamborghini lost about a HK$1 million in four years before it got wet. Hong Kong’s overpriced new cars largely lose you money as soon as you receive the keys.

Insurers then deduct “general excess”, which is typically “5 per cent for a high performance car” and “parking excess, normally HK$10,000”, says Kwiksure.

As a result, Kwiksure estimates the damp Lamborghini’s owner “should receive compensation of around HK$1.41million. If [the owner got] third party insurance he will get nothing.”

The “swimming” Gallardo may serve as a reminder to Hongkongers of the perils of buying silly cars. The Gallardo is a 5.2-litre, V10 vanity car in a stop-start, 1.4-litre town. This baby, slightly past-it Lamborghini’s top speed of over 300kmh also seems laughably overpowered for Hong Kong Island traffic, which tends to move at about 20kmh.

The Gallardo might be an insurance headache, but there are many alternative drives for all weathers here. Kwiksure says the “easiest makes and models” to insure in Hong Kong are Honda’s Jazz and Stepwgn, or Toyota’s Corolla, Alphard and Sienta, all of which have been featured here in the past.

Here are five cars that might make sense for driving in a city like Hong Kong – even when the weather turns ugly. In each case, Kwiksure has estimated the costs of insuring the car, assuming the owner is a 40-year-old in a mainstream office job with a clean licence and claims history:

Smart Fortwo

The three-cylinder, one-litre Smart Fortwo (estimated market value: HK$219,000; third party insurance: HK$2,380; comprehensive cover: HK$7,490) is a two-seater built for urban traffic. This 71hp compact is sufficiently small (at 2.69m long) and light (at 880kg) to convince even the most enthusiastic storm-chaser to stay at home in a typhoon. Even so, the Fortwo has crosswind assist, which is said to stabilise and slow the car at 80kmh on straights and slight bends. It is also protected by a steel Tridion safety cell close to its passengers. The car’s windscreen wipers work fast and its body panels absorb dings and are easily replaced.

Mazda3 saloon/hatchback

Typhoon Hato shook the logic of buying overpriced luxury-branded cars in Hong Kong. A two-litre Mazda3 saloon or hatchback (estimated market value: HK$$229,900; third party cost: HK$2,380; comprehensive cost: HK$6,350) fulfils the company-car role of a more expensive German saloon or “compact SUV”, and could reduce your claim risk. It has comfy back seats, lots of safety electronics and strong adaptive headlights. The 1.5-litre Mazda 3 hatchback might be a more affordable, more stable drive than a high-sided SUV that catches more wind in a storm. Some Mazda3s have been spotted above Stubbs’ Road, suggesting some of the city’s rich are staying rich by driving more competitively priced cars.

Toyota Corolla

The typhoon also revives arguments for recycling “disposable cars”. Hong Kong is full of pre-depreciated, low-mileage cars that can halve the cost of your motoring and thereby reduce your storm-liability risk. Two models stand out. The first is a 2005-ish Toyota Corolla De Luxe (estimated market value: HK$30,000; third party cost: HK$2,380; comprehensive cost: zero, because comprehensive coverage isn’t provided for cars valued below HK$50,000, Kwiksure says). You can find one of these stable, lovable rides online for about HK$40,000. Corollas of this vintage have a responsive 1.5-litre engine, a comfortable cabin and a great boot. If your old Corolla is crunched by a falling tree, you can repair the typhoon damage at a local greasepit instead of the dealer, or find a new one online.

Mini Cooper

Then there is the Mini Cooper (estimated market value: HK$240,000; third party cost: HK$2,380; comprehensive cost: HK$8,050) They are small and light but their steering, brakes, all-round view and mirrors are handy in a typhoon commute. Some motorists might seek the protection of a larger car, but the Mini Cooper’s Italian Job-like handling could help you dodge falling skyscraper glass or floating clouds of construction site plastic in a T10. Get the faster Mini Cooper S if you commute on New Territories highways, but stick to the Cooper in Hong Kong Island’s congestion.

Range Rover Evoque

Typhoons can justify the rarely-used offroad technology of the two-litre Range Rover Evoque (estimated market value: HK$600,000; third party cost: HK$2,380; comprehensive cost: HK$11,550). This Clearwater Bay Housewives’ staple has been factory-tested to withstand 240kmh gusts, and can tow up to two tonnes of boat. However, its glass panoramic windows may be expensive to replace, if hit. The Evoque is said to have fine suspension and cornering ability, and several terrain response settings on 18-inch wheels. Nice, but not worth risking in a T10. The insurance costs might be too great.