Watching Top Gear this week made me laugh a little more than usual, it also brought a wry smile to my face as I recalled something that happened to me in my past, and something that is going to happen again in the future to the poor unsuspecting Salesmen who sell the Volkswagen Tiguan that had Captain Slow James May behind the wheel or the Mazda CX 5 that Jeremy Clarkson was driving in the program. They were racing the 4 Wheel Drive cars across country, and just to add to the mayhem and giggles they were both towing caravans.
The manufacturers usually sell their ex demonstrators and company cars directly to their dealers or through their closed sales (Auctions for registered dealers) however I am pretty sure that this won’t be the case with the 2 cars featured, they will be sold to some poor unsuspecting Indy Dealer who is desperate for stock, the reason they will be syphoned out of the network is that they were abused by Clarkson and May and hammered round the track by the Stig, the Tiguan crossed the line pulling a 1 wheeled caravan thats stub axle was cutting into the ground and was leaving a spectacular shower of sparks in its wake,
On the Mazda’s fast lap it was lifted off the tarmac and hoisted into the air when the caravan it was attached to overturned, the car which weighs over 1400 kg’s was then pushed forward by a force applied directly to its chassis via the tow bar, im not clever enough to work out the kgs per cm squared that it would take to do this, but if i can aliken it to the damage even the most svelte like woman wearing stiletto heels does to a wooden floor, when all her weight is concentrated and transferred to the floor through the very tip of her high heels.
Phew its suddenly got very hot in here and I've lost my train of thought, now where was i? Argh yes, her rear end, erm, the Mazda's that is, and not the Woman in the stilettos, was lifted off the ground causing it to bunny hop down the track with its sump shield and front bumper scraping the floor, it came to rest suspended in mid air, and was left hanging precariously, the Stig wasn’t hurt but Clarkson and May took the precaution of taking The Stig to the recycling centre and throwing him away, (Stig of the Dump, Get it, See what I did there?), what they should have done is left the Mazda there instead.
The automatic braking system on the Mazda stopped Clarkson driving into a hedge, and James May driving into Clarkson, but it failed to stop Clarkson rear ending the Tiguan, supposedly damaging the intercooler and leaving Clarkson stranded on car park which was also the local Dogging site, (I'm ashamed to say that I found that mildly amusing too, especially as I had a similar experience in Avenham Park Preston. )
During the race with Clarkson, James May jack Knifed the Tiguan and the caravan made contact with the nearside rear wing of the car, at some point in the future an unsuspecting dealer will take these cars into stock, they will have only the Manufacturers name in the log books, and the salesman will tell his customer that it is a low mileage, 1 owner vehicle with a full service history, sounds good doesn’t it but the truth is that it has been driven by several maniacs, been red lined through every gear and crashed several times.
The sale of goods act is a funny thing, but not for Car Dealers, and these days the courts seem to interpret it in a way that ensures even if the Dealer made some money when he originally sold the car, the customer now has an unbelievable amount of time to get his money back and some of the Car Dealers too, by suing him should the car develop a fault, or if it has been miss described, who on Earth is going to be able to describe these two cars accurately and stand any chance whatsoever of selling them, they will be sold on a need to know basis (what they dont know cant hurt them) and if at some point in the future the customer discovers the cars true history, I imagine he will have the courts sympathy and be awarded a full refund and costs?
If this was a film and not a blog, the camera would zoom in, I would stare at the heavens, touch my chin with my thumb and forefinger and the screen would go all shimmery as I drifted back in time to when I found myself in exactly that situation, I think it was 1988 when we had started to sell Isuzu Troopers, they were fantastic cars and pretty bullet proof, we were selling more new ones (that we’d imported) than the local main dealer and we couldn’t get enough second hand vehicles to sell.
It had come to the attention of Isuzu management that we were denting their sales figures and they approached us and offered us the franchise, one of the conditions of getting the Isuzu Franchise was that we took on the Suburu Franchise that came with it first, this was pre Imprezza and World Rally Championship days, the range was poor, they weren’t good sellers and we thought it would be a good way to lose lots of money very fast so we politely declined and started sourcing our new vehicles from Ireland.
Perhaps politely wasn't quite accurate, Isuzu were quite upset when we broke it to them that we would rather have Aids than the Subaru Franchise, the inference being that there was no known cure for Aids but it would still be easier to get rid of than a new Subaru Legacy Wagon. One thing that came out of our brief encounter with International Motors was that we were able to add a couple of new names to our Roladex (Jees i wonder what happened to Roladex's?) one of our new contacts was the guy who sold off their company cars, we gave him a ring to see if there he had any Isuzu's to sell us, and after he'd gone through all the delivery mileage self registered Subaru Legacy's he had on his books he reluctantly mentioned one Trooper.
I said earlier that we needed used stock desperately so we jumped in the car and went to try and buy it, slight drawback it was army green, it had a couple of dents on it and it looked like someone had emptied the contents of a builders yard in it, but I knew by the time I had finished valeting it it would look like new, we couldn’t believe our luck, and neither could we understand why it hadn’t been snapped up by one of the Franchised Isuzu dealers. It soon became clear that maybe International Motors were harbouring a bit of a grudge.
When we picked the car up, we were given a book, it was an Isuzu Lifestyle Hard Back book on the front cover was the car we had bought, it was featured heavily throughout with photographs of it crossing a shallow stream, reversing a boat trailer into a lake, driving up a gentle gradient, a family having a picnic in the middle of a field, with the Trooper parked up in the background, you know it was kind of like a TV advert for Feminine products except the director had substituted an Isuzu Tampon, it was a collection of all the things that you would buy a 4 wheel drive for with the intention of doing, but then end up just taking the kids to school in it.
The book would really help us with the provenance of the car and show that it had belonged to the manufacturers, as a Demonstrator it would have had no expense spared on its service and maintenance history, we had customers waiting to buy and this car would fly out.
As usually happens the service department tries its best to piss on your chips, and charge the sales department as much as they can possibly get away with for reconditioning the vehicle pre sale, usually the mechanics all congregate and examine a sales car en mass, they like nothing better than to find every little fault (including some that don’t actually exist) and do their very best to make sure that all the money goes to their department and you don’t make any profit when you sell it.
When they put the car on the ramp, they noticed that the bumps and bangs on the body work were nothing compared to the ones it had sustained underneath, never mind gentle slopes, it looked like it’d had its wheels removed then been dragged up and down K2, or a high rocky mountain that youve heard of, there was lots of damage that we would need to repair, the exhaust was battered, brake pipes almost flattened, the floor was gouged, most of the cars underseal had been scraped off, and the cause of the rattling on tickover was discovered, and rectified by removing the half a ton of shale and rocks that had collected in the heat shields and sump guard.
After all the rectification had been carried out, the car was as good as new and we put it on
sale in early December, it wasn’t long before a guy came to buy it, he lived at the top of Winter Hill where the massive 450 foot mast which supplies the TV signal to all the North West region is situated. Winter Hill is one of the most inhospitable places in the UK and my customer was fed up of being snowed in and unable to get to or from his house, he definitely needed a 4 Wheel drive, he had done his research, he wanted a trooper, and we had the only one in his price range, he was very easy to deal.
A few days later I was just sitting down to my Christmas Dinner when my phone rang, my Boss sounded even more depressed than usual, he said “Switch on ITV Now you wont believe it” There was a program on called “Celebrity Challenge” the TV warmed up just in time for me to see the Formula 1 driver Emerson Fittipaldi racing Mike Smith the car fanatic and Radio 1 Disc Jockey round a track that would normally be used for Motor Cross, Mike and Emerson were fighting tooth and nail, they were neck and neck, wheel to wheel, they both hit the biggest Jump on the circuit at precisely the same instant, the vehicles launched off the ramp soared into the air, and collided at the top of their trajectory. Emerson was driving our Green Isuzu Trooper, and the registration Numbers was on for all to see, I was horrified, any chance of plausible deniability had gone! and thats why International Motors sold the car to us instead of one of its own Franchised Dealers.
I prayed that for some reason even though he lived next door to the TV transmitter he couldn’t get that channel or he was watching The Queens Speech instead, as you probably know I have a, hope for the best, plan for the worst "Shit Happens" kind of mantra, but basically on this one I was f#### .
Neither the customer nor any of his friends must have seen the program, although I did take the precaution of locking myself in the boot of a car when I saw him walking in to the showroom a few weeks later (my favourite hiding place) , but I was safe he had just called in to tell us how much he loved his car, it never developed any problems, and continued to be fit for the purpose which he had bought it for many years to come.
Cars in those days literally were bullet proof, even if they broke down, they were relatively easy to fix, they didn't have computer designed crumple zones that bend like tin foil if you lean on them, or airbags that explode in your face when you switch your I phone on, neither could the customer reject a car and ask for his money back if he got it home and found out that his wife didn’t like it because the colour clashed with her curtains.
I will close this blog with a short message to the future sellers of the Mazda CX 5 and the VW Tiguan that were featured on Top Gear, I pray that unlike Isuzu, the manufacturers had the good sense to put on false registration numbers, and that whoever buys the cars doesn’t have the benefit of endless Top Gear reruns on his Sky TV Dave and Dave ja vu channels
Or failing that, I hope that you, like me are, living proof that it’s far better to be lucky than smart!
May the force be with you!