Guess what: unless you buy a used car from your mum, you’ll have no idea how it has been driven before you bought it.
This apparently shocking development prompted two complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), which confirmed that two cars, sold by dealership Glyn Hopkin of Essex, were not sold as advertised, using an advertisement template supplied by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.
Actually, the two cars were entirely as advertised, but were also as not-advertised, having been used as fleet or company vehicles yet with neither FCA nor the dealer making it totally clear in the ads that this was the case.
But of course it was the case. The UK new car market is only 2.5 million cars a year, yet a million people in the UK drive a new company car. And because private buyers don’t want to stomach the depreciation of a new car, countless hundreds of thousands more discounted new cars filter onto various fleets throughout the land, essentially to support the used car market. So the vast majority of nearly new cars are former fleet cars. I know this. You know this. Everyone buying a nearly new car knows this.
Even our complainant (singular, weirdly, having bought two Alfa Giuliettas, of around 10,000 and 20,000 miles respectively) admitted knowing this, but then objected to the fact that the cars in question might have been used – I don’t know – as cars anyway. Perhaps, even – gasp! – by more than one person.
And that, essentially, seems to be the nub of the argument. They didn’t know that bit. You’d think the fact there was a company name on the ‘registered keeper’ section of the V5C, rather than ‘Mrs Miggins, 42 Careful Lane’, would have implied it, but it seems not. They weren’t entirely the ‘one-owner’ cars they also, incidentally, were absolutely not in any way advertised as either.
Anyway, the ASA upheld elements of what seems to me like a spurious claim and reports now suggest that this could [slaps forehead] lead to – guess what? – compensation claims! Of course it could, because 2018 is seemingly no less dismal than 2017, and because it wouldn’t surprise me in the least to discover that somebody stands to make a percentage out of any claim. I’m usually on the consumer’s side in things like this. But if somebody tries to claim compensation for buying a car that is obviously what the V5C says it was, I hope a large dealer group or car maker or industry organisation goes hell-for-leather to defend it, and I hope the action fails spectacularly.
Partly because the whole thing stinks of opportunism, looking to whip up offence where none exists and creating a ‘mis-selling scandal’ where there isn’t one; but also because there is absolutely no way of knowing how a car has been driven and cared for regardless of who has owned it and how many people have access to it. One caveat: I wouldn’t mind being told that a car was a former hire car, but let’s not forget that ‘ex-demonstrator’, by definition driven by hundreds of people, is usually perceived as a positive thing.
I’m hoping, then, that we’ll hear little more of it. Because if no blame results in a claim, there will only be one set of winners, and it won’t be those who sell cars or, ultimately, those who buy them either.