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Old 22nd February 2012, 02:47   #1
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Exclamation Fiat Punto Accident: B-pillar damage

My 2011 Fiat GP Diesel met with an unfortunate T-bone collision on Saturday. A crazy cabbie (Xylo) rammed into the car full-speed from the left. I was behind the wheels and the car did a very good job of protecting me. Aside from some seat-belt related diaphragm injuries, I am doing mostly fine.

I started a thread about this crash a couple of days back and was planning to add more details. However, a moderator rightly deleted it, indicating that it was lacking sufficient details. Point taken. :-) I have now thoroughly searched the forums and have not come across a thread that discusses the technical queries I have.

The left side of the car is a mess right now. Both the doors are gone. Another rear panel (the one next to the bumper) will likely need replacement too. The picture below will give you more idea about the damage.

Fiat Punto Accident: B-pillar damage-imag0109.jpg-picasa-photo-viewer-22022012-022031.jpg

Fiat Punto Accident: B-pillar damage-imag0109.jpg-picasa-photo-viewer-22022012-022031.jpg

As far as I can see, the impact is limited to the areas I have marked in blue rectangles. The rear window pane seems to have broken more due to the shock wave rather than the initial hit. The engine panel and area looks completely undamaged (touch wood). The car is starting up fine. The bumper seems untouched as well. The dealership guys have been trying to convince me that the damage is completely repairable. Insurance has given a go-ahead and the work has begun. Estimate: 40-50k, with original parts coming in from Fiat Pune and ~10-15k from my own pocket.

However, I have some specific queries that I need advice on:
  • Does the B pillar seem damaged to you? Looking from the inside of the car, the damage seems limited. Also, the impact is mostly in the lower region of the car, rather than near the roof. Most of the definitions of the pillar I have seen (including threads of this forum) seem to say that the pillar is at the level of the window panes. That seems logical as well, since the "pillars" would support the roof. Is it all the way down?

    The dealer says the "lower" part of the pillar is damaged and will need replacement. What is the best way to repair such damage?
  • Is it a possibility that after repairs the car won't regain its original structural strength? This side of the car is where wife and the kid would sit, so I am particularly concerned. How can I best ensure the repairs give the car its original strength back?
  • Does the Punto have a unibody design? Any chassis-related concerns that you see?
  • Could the wheel alignment be permanently damaged? Doesn't seem so at the first glance/drive, though.
  • The car is only 8 months old and I have plans of long-term ownership. What are your thoughts in this regard? Since the car was purchased under the company lease scheme, I could give it back after about two years more (losing all installments paid over 3 years; ~15k*36) or make a lumpsum payment of 1.6 lacs and make the car my own. Earlier, I was sure I would pay the residual value and make the car my own EMI-free. I have my doubts now.
  • How will this accident affect the resale value of the car?
  • Any other checklist items I should be careful about as repairs progress?

Your advice in this regard is greatly appreciated!

Last edited by Technocrat : 22nd February 2012 at 02:49. Reason: corrected image tags
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Old 22nd February 2012, 08:56   #2
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Default re: Fiat Punto Accident: B-pillar damage

Almost certainly there is some chassis damage. I of course cannot be certain just from the photo, but the vehicle is designed in such a way that the chassis is the crumple zone which will take the impact and thus protect you and your family.

Any repairs should involve replacement of the affected parts and not tinkering as this will probably result in a weaker left side in another accident IMHO. I accept I may be wrong on this.

The two big rectangular areas at the bottom (the doors and side panels) being damaged are totally understandable and I would not worry too much about these, provided they are replaced. The area of worry for me is the small rectangle on top. What that indicates to me is some deformity of the chassis (a good thing in an accident as that is how the energy is dissipated). If that is not repaired properly and if the rest of the chassis is not checked properly then the chassis will definitely be weaker and dissipate less energy in any (god forbid) future accident. In addition, this may affect handling and performance of the car.

Please get it checked carefully by a trusted mechanic / body person. If all the affected parts are replaced and done well, there is no reason why the car cannot come back to its original structural strength and integrity. A perfect example of this is race cars that have accidents are repaired and they continue using it for racing after complete replacement of affected parts as it is definitely cheaper than building a completely new car. However, the catch is the job needs to be done properly. If this is done, I would even say you can buy the car when the lease period is done. If not, then you are better off taking the loss of EMI payments and buying another car on lease after three years. Yes it costs money, but I guess you intend to keep the car for at least a couple of years after you buy it.

Resale will definitely be affected, especially if a good repair job is not done.

The thing to be most careful of, safety wise, is if there is any deformity in the chassis. This can be fixed though, so if the repair guys are any good, don't worry.

Please update us once you have any further news and once you make a decision on what is happening. I hope this has been of help to you.
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Old 22nd February 2012, 09:55   #3
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Default re: Fiat Punto Accident: B-pillar damage

Pretty sure that car would be considered totalled almost anywhere else in the world. Sell the car after it's repaired. A small hatchback being T-boned by a huge MPV isn't going to cause just superficial damage. The dealership and insurance guys are trying to save a buck.
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Old 22nd February 2012, 10:39   #4
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Default re: Fiat Punto Accident: B-pillar damage

Quote:
Originally Posted by Samartha View Post
My 2011 Fiat GP Diesel met with an unfortunate T-bone collision on Saturday.... I have some specific queries that I need advice on:
  • Does the B pillar seem damaged to you? ...The impact is mostly in the lower region of the car, rather than near the roof.
  • Does the Punto have a unibody design? Any chassis-related concerns that you see?
  • Could the wheel alignment be permanently damaged? Doesn't seem so at the first glance/drive, though.
  • Since the car was purchased under the company lease scheme, I could give it back after about two years more (losing all installments paid over 3 years; ~15k*36) or make a lumpsum payment of 1.6 lacs and make the car my own.
Samartha - a couple of thoughts from my side.

Looking at the running board condition, I am pretty sure you will be able to see the chasis damage (wrapping) if you check the underside of the car. Running board seems to have gone in 3-4 inches due to impact on lower side and hence I think it would have pushed the chassis beams which run through inside the floor sheet from front to back. This, I think if not fixed well, can give you be pretty serious alignment/ other issues later. This, along with the proper fixing of B pillar should be the most important part of this car's repair.

Regarding the lease, I suggest you assess car's value at the end of lease term and if that's more than 1.6L, then it makes sense to buy the car. You can sell it in used car market even on the next day for more than 1.6L.

EDIT - are you getting this fixed from Noida dealers, if so is it Sterling or Oberoi? In either case, I suggest you be extra careful about the quality of work. You can search for their reviews on this forum.

Last edited by amit1234singla : 22nd February 2012 at 10:40.
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Old 22nd February 2012, 11:14   #5
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Default re: Fiat Punto Accident: B-pillar damage

Good to know that no one was injured.

Now coming to the damage and its repair:

Fiat Punto Accident: B-pillar damage-imag0109.jpg-picasa-photo-viewer-22022012-022031.jpg

The doors will need to be replaced, that is a simple fix.
What I am worried about is the damage to the running board (Marked in yellow). The running board is not a panel but the chassis itself. It is triangular in section. The usual way to repair it is to cut the damaged section by gas cutting and weld in a metal piece piece there.
But the amount of damage that your running board has taken, it will be very difficult to repair it that way.

Quote:
Originally Posted by pganapathy View Post
A perfect example of this is race cars that have accidents are repaired and they continue using it for racing after complete replacement of affected parts as it is definitely cheaper than building a completely new car.
In a racing car, the whole shell (chassis) would be replaced in this case.
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Old 22nd February 2012, 11:19   #6
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Default re: Fiat Punto Accident: B-pillar damage

First of all, sorry about your car, mate. Must have hurt like hell to see your baby in this condition for no fault of yours.

Now, as to the car. There is too much damage to keep the car with you after repairs. As others have pointed out, there is definite damage to the chassis. Either get your insurance company to declare it as a total loss, or repair the car and sell it off.
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Old 22nd February 2012, 12:36   #7
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Default re: Fiat Punto Accident: B-pillar damage

Quote:
Originally Posted by amit1234singla View Post

EDIT - are you getting this fixed from Noida dealers, if so is it Sterling or Oberoi? In either case, I suggest you be extra careful about the quality of work. You can search for their reviews on this forum.
I am getting it fixed through Oberoi. Looks like I'll have to pay special attention now to how the chassis got affected.
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Old 22nd February 2012, 13:06   #8
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Default re: Fiat Punto Accident: B-pillar damage

As Jalsa has pointed out the damage to the running board is hard to repair completely and and can spring a leak during monsoons; this is from personal experience, actually the damage to my M800's running board was very small compared to your GP. I used to end up cleaning the car after running the car through rainy weather or waterlogged roads.

Last edited by Durango Dude : 22nd February 2012 at 13:07.
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Old 22nd February 2012, 13:38   #9
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Default re: Fiat Punto Accident: B-pillar damage

Quote:
Originally Posted by Durango Dude View Post
As Jalsa has pointed out the damage to the running board is hard to repair completely and and can spring a leak during monsoons; this is from personal experience, actually the damage to my M800's running board was very small compared to your GP. I used to end up cleaning the car after running the car through rainy weather or waterlogged roads.
I just spoke with the guys at Oberoi and they say that the running board will be completely replaced "along with the side body." As per them, the Punto chassis is not unibody, but a welded-together composite of pieces. Out of the several pieces, the side body piece will be completely replaced and welded in.

Thoughts?
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Old 22nd February 2012, 14:02   #10
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Default re: Fiat Punto Accident: B-pillar damage

Samartha, sorry to hear about the accident. The damage seems far to much to get eclipsed by a repair job. Even after the running board is repaired completed its unlikely that it'll retain the original structural strength.

Suggest you ask your insurer to declare total loss and get the IDV. Doubt if repairing and then selling the car later will fetch you more. Since you mentioned that the car is 8 months old the IDV will definitely be higher.
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Old 22nd February 2012, 14:14   #11
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Default re: Fiat Punto Accident: B-pillar damage

Quote:
Originally Posted by amitoj View Post
Either get your insurance company to declare it as a total loss, or repair the car and sell it off.
Quote:
Originally Posted by arup.misra View Post
Suggest you ask your insurer to declare total loss and get the IDV. Doubt if repairing and then selling the car later will fetch you more. Since you mentioned that the car is 8 months old the IDV will definitely be higher.
Since the repair estimate here is only 40-50k, declaring it total loss is not a possibility I think. No insurance co will agree to that. I think the rule for declaring total loss is that repair cost needs to be over 75% of IDV.

There is one possibility I see here - if it can be somehow proved that the body shell is not repairable and needs replacement. The repair cost might exceed 75% of IDV. But I think in that case dealership needs to prove to the surveyor that repair is not possible.
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Old 22nd February 2012, 18:07   #12
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Default re: Fiat Punto Accident: B-pillar damage

Quote:
Originally Posted by Samartha View Post
I just spoke with the guys at Oberoi and they say that the running board will be completely replaced "along with the side body." As per them, the Punto chassis is not unibody, but a welded-together composite of pieces. Out of the several pieces, the side body piece will be completely replaced and welded in.

Thoughts?
All cars are built like that. All of them have side frames, a base frame and roof frame. These are welded together by robots for precision welding.
Even if manually welded, they need special jigs to hold the various parts in perfect alignment. Also, welding causes warping and this needs to be taken care of. Definitely, only the factory where these cars are built will have this facility.

I am saying all this assuming that by side frame they mean what is shown in the picture below:
Name:  W94040.jpg
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Please sit with your workshop guys and discuss how exactly are they going to go about this repair. I suggest calling up FIAT India and ask them to send engineers who would determine if this is repairable. If they say it isn't, then you can claim full loss from insurance.



Other pictures:
Name:  W93492.jpg
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Fiat Punto Accident: B-pillar damage-laser-welding.jpg
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Old 22nd February 2012, 22:46   #13
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Default Re: Fiat Punto Accident: B-pillar damage

Quote:
Originally Posted by Samartha View Post
I just spoke with the guys at Oberoi and they say that the running board will be completely replaced "along with the side body." As per them, the Punto chassis is not unibody, but a welded-together composite of pieces. Out of the several pieces, the side body piece will be completely replaced and welded in.Thoughts?
It's the quality of the weld and number of welds that determine how leak proof the running board is after the repair. I think for all that replacements 40-50k is a little cheap, hope you have got the estimate right, otherwise you will be shell shocked after the repair bill arrives.
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Old 22nd February 2012, 23:09   #14
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Default Re: Fiat Punto Accident: B-pillar damage

Quote:
Originally Posted by jalsa777 View Post
All cars are built like that. All of them have side frames, a base frame and roof frame. These are welded together by robots for precision welding.
Even if manually welded, they need special jigs to hold the various parts in perfect alignment. Also, welding causes warping and this needs to be taken care of. Definitely, only the factory where these cars are built will have this facility.

Please sit with your workshop guys and discuss how exactly are they going to go about this repair. I suggest calling up FIAT India and ask them to send engineers who would determine if this is repairable. If they say it isn't, then you can claim full loss from insurance.
I completely concur with Jalsa. Its near impossible to get the chassis spot on. As far as I know there is just one chassis straightening machine in India and thats with one of the dealers of BMW. I suggest you take a wheel alignment reading before the repairs and one after the repairs. The readings after the repairs should be similar to a brand new Punto. If the infamous TATA service cannot agree to repairing your 8 month old car to pristine condition with factory wheel alignment readings you should ask the Insurers for total loss. Remember that with factory setting the car should run straight and not pull to the left or right of flat level road.

Believe me this repaired chassis cannot meet the strength of a fresh chassis and neither will it be rust proof. Ask them how they are going to paint the inside of the running board after welding. Remember weld joints are most prone to rust and the joint will fail in about 2 years. At the factory these parts are spot welded and not gas welded after which the whole chassis is dipped in anti rust compound.

Do not accept the car if it does not run straight and and anti rust coat has not been applied to the insides of the running board near the weld joints.
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Old 22nd February 2012, 23:11   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Durango Dude
It's the quality of the weld and number of welds that determine how leak proof the running board is after the repair. I think for all that replacements 40-50k is a little cheap, hope you have got the estimate right, otherwise you will be shell shocked after the repair bill arrives.
Yup. I'm assuming it will be on the higher side. I am paying part of the bill, while insurance is bearing the rest. I will visit the workshop often and insist on the highest quality repairs. This thread has given me a lot of food for my discussions with the workshop guys.

Meanwhile, per a suggestion in this thread, I called up Fiat India and they redirected me to a Fiat engineer at a different dealer. He also seemed to say the side body damage is repairable.

I did speak to Oberoi again. Totaling the car seems out of the question, especially since there is no engine damage. I'll post updates to this thread once the repair job picks up steam. Will also post more pictures.
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