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Study: 15% of wrecked autos got washed titles

Nearly 15 percent of the 1.3 million vehicles that were severely damaged by collisions, bad weather or fire in the first half of 2008 now have clean titles that do not identify that damage, a new study concludes.

More than 185,000 cars and trucks that were issued titles indicating their damage had those brands removed when the vehicles were retitled in another state, says Experian Automotive.

Edie Hirenstein, senior product manager of Experian's AutoCheck vehicle history service, said the number of title-washed vehicles in the first six months of this year was about the same as in the year-ago period.

As the country enters the peak hurricane season, she says, the industry must redouble its vigilance about rebuilt flood cars and other wrecks.

Experian has compiled information on 600 million cars and trucks from departments of motor vehicles in all 50 states and Washington. The study examined what happened to title-branded vehicles when they got new titles in other states, Hirenstein said. The study did not include vehicles that were at least 10 years old. 

You can reach Arlena Sawyers at asawyers@crain.com

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