Archive | August, 2013

The Value Of Pre-registered Cars

Car dealership are in business to make money. We all understand and accept that as part of the process of buying a new car. At the same time we all want the best deal we can negotiate.

Meanwhile, in the back office behind the gleaming showroom, the Dealer Principal is responsible for the efficient running of the organisation and ultimately, profitability. It is his or her job to formulate the strategy for success.

One of the ways that new car dealers can do this is by buying in cars that have not been specifically ordered by a customer. The reason for this is that brand dealerships are answerable to their manufacturers. They know that they will not retain their main dealer status if they do not move product. Car makers require their dealers to perform on sales and meet targets. By buying in stock to supplement sales these targets are met and it then falls to the dealer to get back the money spent by offering great deals to customers.

A pre-registered car should only have delivery mileage on the clock and be less than six months old. The only way to tell that it is not an entirely new vehicle fresh off the line is that the documentation will carry the dealer’s name as first owner. The other way to tell is by the price which should be well below recommended retail as the seller tries to move the vehicle along.

This means that there are some great buys to be had by anyone willing to compromise a little. There are downsides, however. Obviously, the new buyer will not be the first name on the ownership document, although any subsequent buyer will probably see what has occurred. Also, the car on offer may not have all of the options that would ideally be required. Equally, the car may have options you don’t want or need – these could make the car more expensive than it needs to be for your budget. Technically, you cannot declare the car to be ‘new’ to your insurance company and this needs to be explained. Insurers do not like complications and require absolute clarity.

If in doubt, ask. You need to know upfront that the car is pre-registered. It may be an older model or one built just before a face-lifted version. Buying a pre-reg can save money, on that there is no doubt; but dealers these days are offering such great deals on absolutely new cars that it may not be the only bargain on offer. Remember, the time for a change of registration will soon be upon us. The choice is yours to make.

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Skoda On A Roll

It seems so long ago now but Skoda cars were once the butt of jokes but these days they produce a range of quality vehicles that have caught the buying public’s imagination. Well, if you’re on a roll you might as well make the most of it. That must be the attitude in the Skoda boardroom because over the next couple of years a batch of new and refreshed cars will be coming on stream.

The Fabia is getting a bit long in the tooth now but it has been the mainstay of Skoda’s sales strategy and still sells well. Nevertheless, the company are mindful that a change is as good as a rest and a new Fabia supermini will be launched next year. Although it is based on the company’s smallest platform it is still expected to be half as big again as the current model. This is no bad thing and follows the trend of superminis maturing into big superminis.

Also in development is an Evoque inspired version of Skoda’s planned seven seater SUV. The regular model is well on the way to production but apparently this more sporty up-market version is well past the drawing board stage. This new SUV is the replacement for the less popular but no less good Superb and is likely to retain that traditional name. It will be sold alongside a refreshed Yeti.

So far so good but possibly the most interesting development is the Skoda Rapid Spaceback – pictured above. This is the first of the new cars to break cover and we will see it first at the Frankfurt show next month, ready for taking orders for the end of the year.

Motor Blogger likes the simple but effective design of this car which starts off at the front as a Rapid but is all new from the B pillars to the back. Although the wheel base is the same as the hatchback this version is surprisingly shorter and loses a bit of luggage space so it can’t really be called an estate version. At first glance the question has to be asked, ‘what is this car for?’

It’s a matter of appeal. The regular Rapid is popular but is it aimed at, shall we say, a certain population segment? Skoda will offer the Rapid Spaceback with a range of customisation options in an effort to increase appeal for younger customers. Options include a full-length tinted glass roof and a “prolong” rear window which extends the tint further along the car. In our opinion it is the better looking of the two. With the choice and variety of the new coming range of Skodas, the company is certain to build on the present success.

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Mobile Phone Confusion

In the UK we have a law dating from 2003 that states we must not use mobile phones whilst driving. Despite this legislation many people still do, thus earning the opprobrium of fellow motorists. This is probably made worse by the fact that the likelihood of being caught at it is slim at best. Nevertheless it is against the law and it is believed that doing otherwise increases the chance of having an accident fourfold.

Even hands-free phones are not immune. Although they are legal drivers can still face penalties starting with the usual three points / sixty quid opening offer. This is possible and we quote “if the police believe you are distracted”. This may be a valid argument but it is very subjective and will largely depend on what side of the bed the officer got out of. Now, however, comes some news that throws the mobile phone debate wide open again.

Let’s be clear from the outset. Motor Blogger is reporting the facts. We are not and will not offer a value judgement as to the rightness or wrongness of what you are about to read.

The news comes from America – where else? Some new research states quite clearly that using a mobile phone whilst driving is not linked to accidents. The research was carried out in the USA by a team from Carnegie Mellon University collaborating with, surprisingly, the London School of Economics. The team found no link between the number of US drivers making phone calls while on the road and the number of accidents recorded.

They analysed more than eight million incidents of car crashes and all fatalities on roads in eight US States. Additionally, they reviewed data before and after 9pm local time over a three-year period because after 9pm many American operators offer free mobile calls during week days. Despite the additional incidence of use, the data did not show any increase in attributable accidents. In other words, despite the huge and sudden increase in the use of mobile phones there was no impact on the crash rate. So there you are.

The research did not include even more stupid actions like texting or browsing at the wheel but the inference is clear. Are we in the UK getting overheated about nothing? It is however important to note that the USA has much more space, wider roads and, basically, more room for cars. British roads are generally tighter and more narrow and less well maintained.

Also, the research does not differentiate on demographic grounds. For example, older drivers are less likely to use devices than young drivers. Would the figures be any different is the groups were split? The basic premise needs to be that drivers who are rash have more accidents anyway. It is unlikely that the UK will amend its stance on the subject but being safe with mobiles is no hardship anyway. It’s against the law so don’t do it.

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Petrol Head Weddings

One of the dangers of planning a wedding to a petrol head is the worry that he or she won’t turn up on the day because of a double-booked diary date at a motor racing track, that had not previously been mentioned. You could of course get married in the week but usually work commitments prevent that. You could get married late in the day after the sport but who wants a new spouse sunburned or windblown and reeking of burgers? It’s a thorny issue.

Thankfully some well organised folk at a famous British motor racing circuit have come up with a genius solution. Get married at the track! Brilliant – all the boxes ticked in one. The bridal march up the aisle can be accompanied by the sound of trackday specials or BTCC cars at full chat. Who could ask for more on their wedding day? Mendelssohn’s Wedding March is so last year.

Many entrepreneurial owners have opened the doors of impressive halls or conference areas at the heart of their circuits. Now one at least has obtained the official approval to host civil partnerships and weddings. What a great idea for motor sport fans; fun and unique. No doubt the venues can be customised to taste and the guests will have scenic views of the track and the chequered line. After the ceremony, all the guests – instead of receiving a party bag – could be taken for a ride around the track at high speed. The prospects for a special day are endless.

Motor Blogger doesn’t know anyone who has yet experienced this but it seems like just the sort of thing for a modern exchanging of rings. Most brides would struggle to get into a Ferrari wearing a conventional dress but who said marriage was easy? Furthermore, it doesn’t have to stop there. Whole new vistas for honeymoons come to light.

Instead of hitting the beaches, Spain boasts several motor racing circuits where lovers can while away many happy hours or perhaps, for the more daring, how about hurtling your Fiesta over the jumps of the Ouninpohja rally stage in Finland after tucking in to a wedding breakfast of pickled herring? These are the memories you cherish forever.

More practical couples could perhaps go on car maintenance courses. Marriage is about doing things together – why should this not include vehicle maintenance or the detailing of paintwork or popping down to the shops to select a pressure washer? Such is the stuff happy marriages are made of.

As you travel the road of life together secure in the knowledge that the oil is freshly changed and there’s some hand cleanser in the boot, always remember this – the family that tinkers together stays together.

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MG Finally Offer A Supermini.

Despite their British Touring Car Championship success the revitalised MG brand has failed to set the UK alight with its latest offerings. Now though, they may finally have hit on the mother lode. Superminis. There’s a lot of them about, certainly, and most are very good indeed so, for MG to make their mark, they had to come up with something exciting.

That something is the MG3. This really is a very good looking car (image) and it has a selling point that most manufacturers can’t match. The most expensive top-of-the-list version costs just £9999. The small but well ordered range starts at a Sandero chasing £8399 but unlike the bargain basement Rumanian built car, the MG3 doesn’t skimp on the extras.

On the safety front this new vehicle boasts six airbags, stability, traction and corner brake control systems – not bad at this money – and the more you spend the more abundant the goodies. As is the trend these days it is easy to order a bit of personalised customisation with plenty of interior and exterior graphics and accessories. We especially like the example featured above. Certainly, the top of the range version comes fully loaded.

Perhaps the weakest point, but certainly not a deal-breaker, is the engine. Not powerful of course but the 1.5L motor with 106PS coupled to the five-speed ‘box should be lively enough to make the driving experience enjoyable, but it is let down by the slightly disappointing figures. 48.7mpg isn’t so bad but the emissions of 136g/km are a tad high and will certainly push the VED bracket up a couple of notches. The warranty is an average but unexciting ‘three year / 60k’ although it will be possible to extend this.

The MG3 is going to be available from September. With their present lacklustre sales the company really need to trumpet this car from the rooftops if it is make any inroads into DS3, Adam or Fiesta territory. The difference for cash-strapped motorist may well be price but then the Dacia comes into the frame. Thus the MG3 is kind of stuck in the middle and it is likely to need some promoting to get results.

Still, it’s good to know that manufacturers are taking note of buying trends. Certainly, there is and always will be a place for the expensive or dramatic vehicles, but these days a lot of folk seem to be settling for small, fuel efficient cars that still offer enjoyment and a bit of lifestyle choice. Good luck to MG with their offering.

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Thoughts On A Reconditioned Engine

Although new cars continue to be sold, the car market is still having a tough time. These days potential buyers are looking for bargain used cars or, indeed, are more likely to hang onto the one they’ve got.

And why not? Cars are well made, remain relatively rust free and can last a long time. Anyone who buys and keeps a car for ten years is getting good value and it doesn’t necessarily end there.

At the heart of the car is the engine. These days some very high mileages can be reached – provided of course that it has been correctly serviced and maintained – before the motor becomes troublesome. At this point the owner has a decision to make. An old car with a failed engine is worthless. Take it to a dealer for repair and he’ll tell you it is not worth it. Time for that last trip to the great breaker’s yard in the sky. Or, if reluctant to give up without a fight, you could try for a reconditioned engine.

A reconditioned engine will always be a lot cheaper than a replacement new one but there’s a snag; the world of the recon motor can sometimes be a mysterious and murky place. Is the engine that you buy fully rebuilt or has it just been removed from a written-off vehicle and given a blow-down with compressed air? Herein lies the worry. Some recon jobs may have just had the broken bits replaced which means that new has been fitted to old. This is never a good combination.

A trustworthy recon has been rebuilt from scratch. This means a total strip-down, a total rebuild and a thorough test that meets real car manufacturers standards. In other words it should effectively be new; it just hasn’t been newly made in a factory. Thus the first thing a buyer needs to watch is that it comes with a full warranty for parts and labour for a decent period of time. There is in a fact a Federation of Engine Remanufacturers. Check with this organisation to make sure your engine is coming from a bone fide paid up member.

This is a market that covers the whole gamut of The Good, The Bad and The Seriously Ugly. The trick, if there is one, is to ask around. If your usual garage is sympathetic they may well have trade contacts or a least a good tip. If you do go down this road make sure that you are getting everything you need. Make sure, for example, that the engine comes with all the ancillary parts needed. Finally, there’s the big question – Who is going to fit it?

A good home mechanic with an owned or rented engine hoist can probably do it. Your above mentioned friendly garage may do it but they will charge you or, of course, if the re-conditioner is handy, he should do the whole job for you. Note that these are shark infested waters. If in doubt don’t but if you can do and then your beloved old car should make it further down the road of life. Or you could just buy another cheap car. Fair warning.

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That Mystery Noise Has Come Back Again!

These days, once you’ve discovered a reliable and trustworthy garage it pays to stick with it. Some people even become reliant on them, phoning up or visiting for every little issue, like a lonely hypochondriac at the doctor’s.

Fine, if there’s some dire mechanical fault or you are worried about poor economy then by all means pop along and get some good advice but what if it is just an irritating vibration or squeak that’s driving you mad? Garage proprietors hate these occasions and with good cause. Whilst they may well know all the cacophony of sounds that a car can make it is shockingly hard to diagnose the sound of a child’s Wellington boot trapped in the corner of the boot well.

If you persist and demand they solve the problem then they will have a fall-back position. The Chief Mechanic will be called over. He will listen to the noise. He will scratch his head, kick a tyre or two, suck air in over his teeth, ask for a clipboard and begin writing down large financial calculations which he will show you. This is designed to make you back off.

Of course, this all presupposes that your vehicle will make the noise at the right time. Certainly, it will make it all the way to the garage but, as sure as shooting, it will stop as you drive onto the forecourt. The car will behave like a malingering dog taken to the vets. It will stubbornly refuse to show any sign of a problem until you get home. Then it all begins again.

There is a solution and it is an easy one that costs you nothing – do it yourself. Here’s a true story. A driver of a well-known Japanese car is being driven crazy by a prolonged squeak – a known issue on this particular car – when he operates the clutch pedal. He goes to the garage. They apply lubricating oil to the pedal without success. In some cases with this vehicle dealers have been known to change clutch parts to resolve the problem and all the time the bill gets bigger and bigger.

As it turns out, all it involved was the act of getting down on knees and delving into the foot well whilst injecting heavy duty grease up into the area where they pedal goes through the firewall. Job done and it lasted for months before a re-application was required.

In other words, what is needed is a bit of time and perseverance. Spend time with your noise; grow to appreciate it. Crawl around the vehicle and try to isolate it in its lair. Does one action cause it and another doesn’t? Are you doing a particular function each time? More often than not the cause will come to light with just the loss of some skin off your knuckles. After all, nobody wants to pay out a large sum to have an Action Man body part removed from behind the rear seat squab!

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New Audi A3 TDI Version – Economy And Performance

The Audi A3 is justifiably a best seller and there are several variants to choose from. Now there’s even more choice. A more powerful version of the 150PS offering, with a 2.0L TDI 184PS engine, has been produced. This new power plant  has a lowest-in-class CO² figure of a meagre 108g/km. The TDI A3 will sprint o 62mph in a swift 7.3 seconds and despite this, the company claim 68.9mpg – officially.

The car is immediately available in hatchback or sport back forms and a saloon version is in the pipeline. This latest car has the option of the legendary Quattro four-wheel drive (and why wouldn’t you?) and, interestingly, some new advanced LED lighting.

Audi have made something of a name for themselves where advanced lighting and diesel technology are concerned and they pushed the standard further forward this time as well. The Company is the first to bring the benefits of LED headlamps to the premium compact class. The distinctive and highly efficient new alternatives to the more familiar xenon gas discharge headlamps, which will continue to be offered, are available for every A3 and S3 variant. The option costs a tasty two grand but includes LED rear lights coupled with light and rain sensors.

Nine high-performance LED chips in two free-form reflectors generate the low-beam light in the new headlights for the A3, while the high beam uses ten high-performance LEDs to emit light through an aluminium aperture. Static turning and all-weather lights are housed in a separate module, while the daytime running and parking lights and the indicators are formed by a light guide that wraps around the upper and inner headlights.

There are also motorway and junction functions and the all-weather light produced eliminates the need for separate fog lamps. This is amazing technology for which Audi are justly famous.

Just about everyone on the planet knows about Audi’s successes in endurance racing and this has helped them to develop their sophisticated diesel technology. What’s less well known is that have also used this lighting technology on their racing cars. This is a classic example of how motor racing experiments and innovations advances the technology in regular road cars.

Of course, with a premium product comes premium prices. The new A3 2.0L TDI costs between twenty four and thirty thousand pounds depending on the chosen spec, which is a lot for this size of car. On the other hand the buyer does get a lot for the money including Audi build quality which is second to none.

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Keep Your Eyes On The Road

Eyesight deteriorates; that’s one of the facts of life that we all have to bear to a greater or lesser extent. Loss of sight can be a tragic thing yet it is something we take for granted. Few people realise – even those who wear glasses or lenses – that even though they have some eyesight correction, this goes awry over time and we just don’t notice the gradual decline.

The road safety charity BRAKE, with partners, has just launched a campaign calling on motorists to act by getting an eye test every two years. This is the normal recommended period yet most of us – be honest now – let this slide. The problem is, as far as driving is concerned, we may be putting others in jeopardy without realising it.

BRAKE says that over a quarter of us have not had a vision test in the last two years. Obviously, it may well be that there is nothing wrong with your eyes, good; but what if they are deteriorating and your brain is just compensating for it? Nine percent of folk questioned hadn’t had a check-up for over five years! For a small percentage it is even longer.eye2 Keep Your Eyes On The Road

Meanwhile, some drivers who use glasses don’t always wear them, which, if you think about it, is asking for trouble. Then there are the people who state determinedly that ‘they don’t need glasses’. This is, ahem, a short-sighted view. How do they know if they haven’t been to an optician?

Now, statistics can often be distorted or made to say something other than their meaning so Motor Blogger is always a little careful to fully endorse them, especially when they come from a vested interest, but the Charity reckon that the estimated number of road casualties caused by poor eyesight is 2,900. That’s a lot and it certainly signifies that a problem exists.

Remember that the Highway Code specifically points this out and that the dreaded DVLA will take a dim view of drivers who flaunt the requirements. They even regularly remind us that eyesight that fails the standard is an offence; the trouble is that we hear so much of this stuff from officialdom that it tends to go in one ear and out the other.

Nevertheless, the DVLA and BRAKE are not wrong. Failing eyesight can contribute to accidents, injuries and deaths. The facts speak for themselves. Right now there is no test that the police can do at the scene of an accident but, unless people start taking note, how long will it be before they devise one? Do yourself a favour. Remember the number plate reading exercise you took on your test day? Try it the next time you’re on foot. Watch for a number plate 20 metres distant and read it out loud. Don’t cheat. Then check it. You may be unpleasantly surprised. In the meantime ‘keep ‘em peeled’!

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Drink-Driving Deaths On The Rise

Figures released by the Department for Transport have shown a rather dramatic rise in the numbers of deaths resulting from accidents where a driver was found to be over the limit. It would not be too much of a stretch to suggest that this could have something to do with the lack of traffic police on our streets. The drink-drivers are once again showing their true colours.

The provisional stats show that around 290 souls lost their lives amongst the debris of 6,680 accidents where an over-the-limit driver was involved. Nearly ten thousand folk were injured in some way. This is a staggering twenty six percent up on last year. 26%!

Aside from the lack of bobbies in panda cars, it is also suggested that the increase is also partly due to the axing, in 2010, of DD television commercials, presumably as a cost-saving measure. Some cost saving when they are supposed to be for life saving. It is clear that relying on Facebook campaigns (Note to government – the whole country is not on social media as you seem to think). Thankfully, the ads have now been reinstated, although Motor Blogger is yet to see one.

The ministers concerned want to be seen to be doing something about it. This is why they are “taking forward a package of measures to streamline enforcement”. This apparently includes new “portable evidential breath-testing equipment which will allow for more effective enforcement”. Not without the cops to use it, it won’t.

It seems that some drivers – including the celebrities who can afford the lawyers – have been trying to evade prosecution by claiming that the breathalyser readouts are unreliable. The new equipment is presumably meant to counter this but it cannot operate itself. That is the basic problem.

Police forces up and down the country have had to cut back to save on costs. Fine, nobody wants waste but where’s the thin blue line? The world can offer up as much fancy gear as anyone could want but until it can be used by trained and trusted operatives then it is just so much extra junk. If accidents and deaths are rising then some fully manned pro-active policing is the answer; not words or gimmicks.

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