Tuesday 24 September 2013

Land Rover: a testimonial

I apologise if your smooth progress around Newcastle on Friday was impeded by a blue Land Rover Discovery periodically shuddering to a halt.

That was my car, though it really wasn’t all my fault. Immediate blame must rest squarely with the dealer to which I took it last Tuesday. I clearly explained what was wrong with the vehicle and returned in the evening only to be told that “they couldn’t find a fault”.

I yearn for the days when a man in oily overalls would raise a car’s bonnet and hit things with hammers of steadily increasing sizes until he felt able to pronounce that the problem was cured.

His contemporary successor seems so terrified of getting his hands dirty that he probably thinks Swarfega is the name of a Scandinavian department store. He prefers to plug his little computer into your car and, if he can’t understand what it tells him, conveniently wipes the record and shrugs his shoulders.

I know this because I have twice returned my current car with defects – the first time with a mere 500 miles on its clock – only to be told that they were effectively all in my mind.

Just to have the thing break down on me shortly afterwards.

I would not mind so much but for the fact that this has hardly ever happened to me before, through a long motoring history that began with a 1956 MG Magnette and continued through a traditional Land Rover that had been comprehensively hammered by an apparently psychopathic farmer before I bought it.

A smarter version of my first car

I am so glad now that I gave more than £50,000 of support to the British motor industry by buying what is clearly not only a “Friday car” but one built after the local football team had lost a key match on Thursday night, and the workforce had been further distracted by an outbreak of amoebic dysentery.

I have bought flats and houses for less, and would probably have stood more chance of getting reliably from A to B in some of them.

I wasted pretty much the whole of Saturday waiting for someone to provide me with a replacement hire car. In the meantime I had the pleasure of watching an AA man tow my heap of junk away, though sadly he rejected my attempt to bribe him to do an emergency stop and write the thing off before it could be “repaired”. Apparently he gets an awful lot of requests on similar lines.

None of which would have upset me quite so much if it had not resulted in my missing the wedding of a dear friend in Durham, at which I had been invited to be a witness. This was, ironically, my sole reason for spending the weekend in the North East in the first place.

I tried to explain this to the various people I called for help, but formed the firm impression that none of them really gave a stuff. Which is a shame, because customer care is no more of a dark art than public relations in general.

It just requires the application of a small amount of common sense, and a willingness to treat other people as you would like to be treated yourself.

Still, I must not be too negative about British motor manufacturing. My wife is delighted with her Sunderland-built Qashqai and it has caused her no problems at all. (Though she has caused it one or two, notably when she unaccountably decided to use the hump backed bridge at Wallington as the launch pad for an Evel Knievel-style stunt.)

I think I shall buy a Qashqai of my own next, though I will study the performance of Sunderland AFC carefully before committing myself, and insist on having one assembled on a Tuesday.

I certainly shan’t be buying another Land Rover. Or, indeed, accepting one as a free gift.

My only regret was that my two young sons were not around to witness it being loaded onto the tow truck, a spectacle they would both have greatly enjoyed. Toddler Jamie was shown a photo and sadly shook his head.

“Daddy car uh-oh,” he sighed.

I could not have put it better myself.

Originally published in The Journal, Newcastle upon Tyne.

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