You expect a CarFax report to hide at least a few unsavory truths about any used car. You certainly do not expect to pull up the history of a single-owner 2016 Cadillac CT6 at a wholesale auction and find no fewer than 126 accidents reported—an average of almost three per month—in the four years the unlucky sedan been stalking the roads of southern Michigan. These weren't all love taps, either, because the report says the airbags deployed during 19 of those crashes. Caveat emptor. (UPDATED BELOW)
Even more impressive is that this Caddy has only accumulated 34,989 miles—which means it traveled well below the national average of around 13,500 miles per year and still managed to ring up a triple-digit crash count. Now that's persistence.
To lay the groundwork, yes, this is a genuine CarFax report for a real 2016 Cadillac CT6 currently sitting in a Manheim wholesale dealer auction lot in Detroit. It was leased from Genesis Cadillac in St. Clair Shores, Michigan and registered on May 24, 2016. And according to CarFax, it took less than two weeks for the driver to be involved in a front-impact crash that caused the airbags to deploy and disabled the vehicle.
We see stories like that all the time, though they usually involve the overenthusiastic owner of a new performance car totaling it in two days. But this particular tale of woe is just getting started. Three days after the first crack-up, CarFax logged another disabling front-end collision; this time the airbags reportedly didn't deploy, praise be. That first full month was a rough one—four accidents, three of which were severe enough to require a tow.
From there, the hits just kept coming. Thirty-five accidents in 2016, with 11 disabling incidents, six reportedly causing no damage, and the rest constituting varying degrees of bad. December was particularly awful with nine crashes involving everything from parked cars to fences to light poles. You'd think the frequency would provoke alarm, either from the insurance company, the driver's loved ones or the general public. Apparently, that's not the case.
It would take far too long to run through all the trauma this car's endured. Suffice it to say that the longest accident-free stretch the Cadillac enjoyed was between April 9 and June 4, 2018, 55 blissful days of trouble-free cruising. Other than that, this CT6 was crashed or crashed into on an astoundingly regular basis before the carnage ceased on January 25, 2019, after which point it somehow made it another 5,000 miles and a full year without incident. Perhaps the lasting peace was the result of an unofficial ownership change within the doomed driver's family?
In any case, a driving record like this only comes around once a century. That is, if this CarFax report is to be believed.
There are a few things that feel off about the accident data here, which CarFax says is compiled from collision repair facilities, insurance companies, and occasionally emergency officials. We know high-skill body shops can fix a lot of damage, but it's hard to imagine that the car in these pictures (given a 3.5/5 condition rating by Manheim, by the way) was involved in 19 hard crashes where the airbags deployed and two rollovers. And even if this CT6 is really made of bondo and bubble gum, who would pay to keep fixing it time and time again? Certainly not the insurance company. The cost of the paint alone in all those reported repairs would total the car ten times over.
Even more perplexing is that all the while, the lessee continued to take their beloved, cursed Cadillac into the dealership for its regular service appointments—fluids, filters, tire rotations, the whole nine yards. What kind of person cares enough about their new car to do that while simultaneously treating it like a motorized battering ram? We contacted Genesis Cadillac to see if anyone there remembered this six million dollar man rolling through on the regular, but were unable to reach someone who could shed light on the car's past.
Independent used car dealer and former contributor to The Drive Steven Lang told us that the Manheim listing (you need a dealer license to view it, so we can't link it here) has become infamous in the wholesale world, and that the mystery about what really happened to this car or its accident data remains unsolved. Lang said if the CarFax is correct, all those crashes had to be minor ones because Manheim doesn't report any frame damage.
The idea of someone—perhaps a senior citizen who shouldn't be driving—getting into 126 paint-scuffing fender-benders and parking in an easily-hit spot isn't completely unrealistic. There are a few dings visible in the listing photos. But neither is the idea of someone on the reporting side accidentally or purposefully messing with the data by running a bunch of test cases on a single VIN, or CarFax just stumbling into a rare glitch. However, even CarFax itself is stumped here.
"CarFax receives data from over 112K sources, including those that report vehicle damage information. This vehicle has had multiple damage events reported to CarFax. However, there may be an anomaly with this VIN and the number of damage events reported on it," a company spokesman told The Drive. "CarFax is reviewing with our sources to determine the cause of the potential anomaly and will update the Vehicle History Report as appropriate."
Thing is, it's not just CarFax. We ran the VIN through AutoCheck, a competing used car records company, which shows 76 accidents that all line up with the dates and information on the CarFax report. Seventy-six, 126—either way that's a big number from two different sources, meaning this can't be explained away as a simple data error.
So, maybe this Cadillac CT6 is not the ragged battlewagon that it appears to be on paper. Or maybe it is. The only thing that's clear is whoever plucks this used luxury sedan off the cracked pavement of a Buy Here Pay Here lot is really rolling the dice.
UPDATE 4:45pm ET: Mystery solved. Following the publication of our story, CarFax responded to say it determined the accidents were reported in error.
"We reviewed the data with our sources and the accidents were reported to CarFax in error. The CarFax Vehicle History Report has been updated to reflect our findings," the spokesperson said. "Thank you for bringing this anomaly to our attention."
You're welcome, CarFax. A peek at the report now shows zero accidents on record. But the episode also lays bare the problem of relying on unchecked data for both buyer and seller; on the unedited report, all those smashes had CarFax estimating its retail value at around $10,500. The new number with a clean background check? $30,980.
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