End of a lifetime

  06 October 2014

The writing has been on the wall for Vauxhall’s ‘Lifetime’ warranty for some months; basically, ever since Tim Tozer took over as managing director back in early February.

 Mr Tozer was quite open about his thoughts when Hugh Hunston interviewed him for Auto Retail Bulletin (issue 123) in August this year.

He said then: “To put it bluntly, I am not convinced about lifetime warranties in general …” and went on to suggest they were “almost” misrepresenting the term ‘lifetime’. The warranty was a brave attempt by Mr Tozer’s predecessor, Duncan Aldred, to differentiate Vauxhall at a time when product quality (and styling) was clearly improving. What better statement of intent than guaranteeing your product ‘for life’.

We’ll probably never know the extent of the original proposal, or whether it was watered down by bean-counters within GM. But it was clear from almost the moment it was launched that the devil was in the detail. It very soon became apparent that ‘Lifetime’ did not actually mean the whole life of the car, there were numerous get out clauses as the car grew older and, critically, the warranty was not transferable to the second owner (unlike long warranties from Kia and Hyundai, for example).

So, for the typical new car retail customer on a three-year change cycle, it had no added value and indeed, they could easily have felt “conned”.

Senior carmaker executives at the Paris Motor Show (where news of the Vauxhall retreat broke on the eve of press day) were polite but open about their ‘told you so’ response. One told us he could think of “plenty of other areas” where he could spend money to give better value to customers and retailers. Vauxhall’s ‘lifetime’ has indeed been shorter than many of us anticipated.

Rupert Saunders

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