High-end German cars heading to the United States are now trapped at sea

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A huge freighter, tasked with transporting the Volkswagen Group’s high-end products from Europe to the United States, is said to have caught fire and is now drifting in the Atlantic Ocean.

It is said to be currently brooding at least a thousand miles off the coast of Portugal, the crew of the Felicity As (not pictured) has been evacuated while the sweet treasures contained within remain trapped on board. Included are approximately 1,100 Porsches, 189 Bentleys and a group of Lamborghinis. The rest of the roughly 4,000 vehicles hidden under the ship’s 650-foot deck are thought to be mostly Audi and VW-branded automobiles.

The boat left the German port of Emden on February 10 with a route that would have placed it in port at Davisville, Rhode Island on February 23. From there he was to head to the Gulf of Mexico.

A Volkswagen Group of America spokesperson confirmed the situation, saying the company was “aware of an incident involving a third-party freighter transporting Volkswagen Group vehicles across the Atlantic.” The ship was en route to North America. At this time, we are not aware of any injuries. We are in contact with the shipping company to get more information about the incident.

As reported by Bloomberg, the ship’s crew was completely evacuated and placed in a local hotel by the Portuguese Navy and Air Force. However, the boat itself is currently on fire and adrift with no one on board.

From Bloomberg:

An internal email from Volkswagen’s US operations revealed there were 3,965 Volkswagen AG vehicles on board the ship. Based in Wolfsburg, Germany, the group manufactures vehicles under brands including Volkswagen, Porsche, Audi and Lamborghini, all of which were under tow when the ship caught fire.

More than 100 of those cars were heading to the Port of Houston in Texas, with the GTI, Golf R and ID.4 models deemed to be at risk, according to the email. The auto industry is already grappling with supply issues, including pandemic-related staffing issues and global chip shortages.

Porsche spokesman Luke Vandezande said the company estimates around 1,100 of its vehicles were among those on board. Felicity As at the time of the fire. He said customers affected by the incident are being contacted by their dealerships. “Our immediate thoughts are of relief that the 22 crew of the merchant ship Felicity As are safe and sound,” Vandezande said.

It’s not a good time to lose inventory in the ocean – not that there’s ever a good time. But stocks are incredibly tight and prices are beyond ridiculous. Many of the cars on the ship no doubt have customers who have been waiting anxiously for months. Bloomberg referred to “a Twitter user”, who turned out to be Matt Farah of The Smoking Tire, who reported that his customized Porsche wouldn’t make it to his garage.

“The Boxster Spyder with Deman 4.5 engine and short gears is hands down the best sports car ever,” farah wrote. “I had specified [sic] exactly as I wanted. There is no way forward.

I’m sure someone who owns a private garage filled with vintage cars (but not all his) will somehow make it through this tragedy. However, the situation in the Atlantic remains a real disappointment for all parties involved. Porsche said it would support customers and dealers as much as it can, suggesting anyone concerned about the incident and the possible implications of a car they ordered should contact their dealership.

The video relating to the event, however, was a bit confusing. Rescue pictures shows men descending on the deck of the Felicity As smokeless. However, their approach clearly shows the ship emitting gray plumes from astern. It is unclear if the clips shared by the Portuguese Air Force and Navy were sequenced out of order or if the ship’s fire was temporarily removed.

On Thursday, the navy said it detected no pollutants and was assessing whether or not the boat was at risk of sinking. Assuming this is not the case, the plan is to tow the Felicity As to the nearest port large enough to take her and determine the extent of the damage. This puts vehicle status pretty low on everyone’s priority list. But there are still plenty of unknown, and potentially dangerous, factors that need to be addressed before anyone wants to bother crawling below deck just to check on cargo.

[Image: SugaBom86/Shutterstock]

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