Toothy Furry Animals Flummox Engineers
Fri Aug 1, 8:14 AM ET
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FRANKFURT (Reuters) - German car engineers, at the forefront of technological innovation, are being outsmarted by small furry animals that damage thousands of cars every year by chewing through wires.
Martens, forest-dwelling weasel-like creatures with sharp teeth and bushy tails, scamper into parked vehicles at night. They nibble through ignition cables and cooling hoses, causing thousands of breakdowns a year from short-circuits and overheated engines.
"Marten damage is a problem which has spread since the end of the 1970s from Austria and southern Germany into parts of central Germany," Ulrich Buckmann of the German drivers' association ADAC said this week. The organization recorded more than 16,000 breakdowns due to marten damage in 2000.
Olaf Otto, who lives in Munich, said he had to pay over 3,000 euros for a new engine for his Opel Corsa after martens ate through cables, causing a breakdown on the highway.
"Martens are a big problem in the Munich area and in my street they seem to go for Opels," Otto said.
The marten-populated southern states of Bavaria and Baden Wuerttemberg, where the Black Forest is located, are also home to Germany's prestigious carmakers Mercedes and BMW.
They boast the latest in gadgetry, but a car firm spokeswoman could only suggest hanging dog hair in the engine compartment as a deterrent.
"Carmakers can't do anything, there are no cables in the world that are marten-proof, no chemicals to stop them and anyway, animal protection groups would kick up a fuss," said a spokesman for DaimlerChrysler, which owns Mercedes.