A weekly guide to all that’s rotten in the auto industry, plus some good bits
All of us are forced to buy a spare part for our car at some time in its life, usually at its annual service or just to replace a broken or worn part. While tyres are getting more and more expensive because advances in tyre technology dictate they’re made wider than ever to grip the road as cars get ever faster, I’d aver almost all of us have been jolted by the cost of a small bit of plastic pipe for the engine or a broken wing mirror.
Experienced car owners trawl breaker’s yards for second-hand parts still useable taken from smashed ‘n crashed vehicles. The rest of us pay through the nose. Some manufacturers try to keep spares at a reasonable price and have them available for a good part of a car’s life. Mercedes is one such company but with computer technology invading every part of a car’s systems I can’t claim their spares are affordable anymore, but your 20-30 year old classic Mercedes will usually be okay for a replacement part.
I own a 22 year-old three-door RAV4. While engine and suspension parts still exist, Toyota stopped producing the rest of it some time ago. In desperation I bought a cheap no-go (non-driveable) donor RAV and am transferring all the good bits to my car before crushing the donor car. I calculate I’ve over £2,000 of retail goodies and four new tyres – a bargain. But not everybody has the time or space to do that.
Too many companies are keener on emptying your wallet. There’s an interesting court case on the move exposing some of the dark arts that go into devouring your hard earned dosh because you insist on relying on a car for transport. Carmakers including Renault, Jaguar Land Rover and Peugeot have boosted revenues by over $1 billion in the past decade by using sophisticated pricing software, according to sales presentations prepared by the software vendor, Accenture, and other documents filed in a court case.
The software works by seeking out the gullible. It does that by identifying which spare parts in a manufacturer’s range will pay more for parts without questioning the cost – the designer jeans doctrine: charge the public what they will pay if they like the label’s status. Hence BMW’s parts, the premier executive car maker, are extortionate. The sneaky system also advises which part should not be over-charged.
Anyhow, the cat is out of the bag, the oil has hit the garage floor. Documents relating to the case were obtained by French news site Mediapart and shared with Reuters and EIC, a network of European investigative news outlets. The case goes to court. The maker of the software Laurent Boutboul is claiming 33 million euros from Accenture over what he says is damage to his reputation because Accenture broke European competition rules. In their defence Accenture deny the charge and call the profiteering ‘efficiency’.
Will your car’s spare parts getting cheaper? Dream on. Can you recall the screams of protest when it was discovered European cars cost more in the UK than in Europe? Prices came down for a full … six months. You can barely afford to buy a car new these days. The cost of a new car is often the equivalent of a deposit on a house.
GROUSEY’S FOOTWELL FINDS
Tata Tae the Discovery
The ripples from the disaster that is Brexit are taking effect. The popular Land Rover Discovery will be produced abroad. JLR released a statement on the impact on jobs: “The decision to move the Discovery to Slovakia and the potential losses of some agency-employed staff in the UK is a tough one but forms part of our long-term manufacturing strategy as we transform our business globally.” Readers will note the use of the soft term ‘potential’ losses. In April, JLR laid off 1000 of its 40,000-strong UK workforce following a 21% downturn in UK demand, a 20.9% decrease up until the end of May. MPs are voicing opposition. The company is owned by India’s conglomerate Tata.
VW fined £1 billion – gulp!
Volkswagen has been fined €1bn (£880m) over diesel emissions cheating in what amounts to one of the highest ever fines imposed by German authorities against a company. The fine follows a US plea agreement from January 2017 when VW agreed to pay $4.3bn to resolve criminal and civil penalties for installing illegal software in diesel engines to cheat strict US anti-pollution tests. “Following thorough examination, Volkswagen AG accepted the fine and it will not lodge an appeal against it. Volkswagen AG, by doing so, admits its responsibility for the diesel crisis and considers this as a further major step towards the latter being overcome,” the company said in a statement. If only we could get Westminster to be so humble charged with stealing Scotland’s oil.
Ban on parking on pavements
Our wonderful pothole-ridden capital, Edinburgh, is about to ban vehicle parking on pavements. I welcome the move. There’s one street in particular I use where its endemic. I watch mothers with children in prams squeezed hard against tenement walls or forced to take to the road. As I wrote some time back, our pavements are almost lost to pedestrians: vans, cars, cyclists, cycle racks, those ugly cycleway sculptures, wheelie bins, shop billboards, electric and cable boxes, bollards, stacked construction materials, scaffolding, drunks, the homeless, tethered dogs, manhole and drains covers, gum, gum, and more gum, and dog poo. Walking to the shops can turn out to be a bit of a minefield to negotiate. I don’t mind a fruit or flower stall outside the shop, but the rest are a menace. Goodness knows how the blind and partially-sighted manage.