Just lately, this writer has taken an awakening interest in old cars. Not classics necessarily, although they could be; just cars from a few years ago in the days when car advertising wasn’t quite so silly and trivial.
In between the bombardment of hysterical reporting about Trump, the EU, trans this and that, the economy, global warming, the new ice-age, the victim culture, the dire state of British politics, appalling customer service and an endless stream of other misery, we are treated to new car promotional advertising that is becoming increasingly daft. Don’t believe it: a car will not change your life. This is just one of the several reasons for the rise of the hashtag, ‘#nomorenewcars’ across social media. Are car buyers beginning to question the need for the very latest thing?
It is a truth universally acknowledged that the more companies talk about the quality of their customer service, the worse it gets. The bigger the organization the worse it gets, and so on. Beyond that is the absolute nadir of customer service that currently is a long established UK telephone company whose name, like the Dark Lord’s, is not mentioned in polite circles.
It was not always like this. Once upon a time shops and trades and businesses were local (for local people) and the customer knew with whom they were dealing. Customer service was not spoken of because it was expected and given automatically. Staff were helpful, polite and above all were allowed to use their common sense. You don’t get that out of a company manual or from specious training seminars.
The New Car Business
To be fair, the retail car industry hasn’t really fallen into that trap, although there is a sense of sales staff performing rather than serving. Clearly, in such a cut-throat business the need to stay on top of one’s game is obviously paramount and customer service in car dealerships is usually excellent, if a little slick.
What has changed for the worst though with car ownership is cost. The complexity of modern cars and, for the most part, the total inability of the average customer to fix them at home, means expensive garage bills when even the slightest thing goes wrong and the car makers know this. This writer just paid an astonishing £95 plus VAT for a plastic indicator stalk and switch for a small Citroen, so knows of what he speaks.
Well, according to an (admittedly dusty and neglected) five-year old report I came across a while back, the public are beginning to question the need for more and more superfluous gadgets and unnecessary extras on cars, which simply add to the expense and complexity.
Building Themselves Into A Corner?
Over 70% of drivers, the report states, would happily do without an electronic parking brake or electrically adjustable seats, for example. They prefer to be connected to the road rather than the world. A more recent report from Mazda shows that barely a fifth of European drivers, in all age groups crucially, are interested in autonomous cars.
You have to ask, are car makers building themselves into a corner? Increasingly, they’ve nowhere to go to make their product better than the next showroom except by the practice of adding more and more trinkets, like cheap charms on a silver bracelet.
The result of this is that customers are saving money by selecting smaller, less well featured models, like basic city cars, and sales of these have risen exponentially. There are many sightings of the Dacia Sandero, Europe’s cheapest car, for example and the thing is, it isn’t at all bad.
But isn’t all this new car business getting just a bit tedious? Slick servers, boring vehicles, manufactured customer service, please choose from the following twenty-seven options, your call is important to us so we’ll keep you hanging on until hell freezes over and so on.
Where’s the fun and what used to be known as the joy of motoring? We were not just put on this Earth for our short span just to be preached at and told what to do by second-rate politicians; we are supposed to enjoy life and if you’re a car enthusiast then that means the call of the open road.
Another Way to Go Motoring
There is another road to go down and that is to travel back in time to an era when the words ‘customer service’ actually meant something and motors were simple to fix. Buy an old car. In your heart of hearts you know this to be true. Why saddle yourself with the expense when there literally tens of thousands of perfectly decent old cars out there just a few years old and with acceptable average mileage on the clock.
Motorists who buy old cars are obviously going to be hated by the monomaniacal lobby who demand, not unlike themselves, that cars emit nothing more than hot air, but this has to be balanced against the pleasure of driving old school and to a reasonable budget.
Old Car Clubs
Although many old cars will motor on trouble free for years, when things do go wrong for the mechanically uninitiated there are friendly owner clubs and independent specialists in vehicle servicing and sales. A good independent garage with skilled staff can usually help and almost certainly at a fairer price than most main dealerships. I use an excellent firm local to me that even collects and returns the car at no cost.
It really is possible to enjoy simple no frills motoring in a car that, despite its age, is entirely capable of providing good daily service. Investing in an old car means more than just buying an old banger and hoping for the best.
For a start, you’ll be ahead of the game. They are devoid of all the usual superfluous extras, often electrical, routinely found on the latest cars, that can go wrong. Old cars are easier to fix, so even if you have to take it to a garage, it still shouldn’t cost the earth to repair. Just because a car is on a 08 plate doesn’t make it bad; why, it’s barely run in. Geoff Maxted