What’s in a warranty?

  10 January 2011

It’s not often I feel sorry for a car manufacturer. My default position is that they are quite capable of looking after themselves and can be ruthless, if necessary, about fighting their way out of a tight corner.

But I must admit a twinge of sympathy towards Vauxhall over the reaction to ‘lifetime’ warranty. They’ve already had to fight their case with the Advertising Standards Authority (the launch ads attracted 45 complaints) and, when they roll the programme out to second owners, we (the press) all focus on the restrictions rather than the benefits.

Duncan Aldred, Vauxhall’s managing director claims: “We are offering the best new and used car warranty in the industry. Frankly, I don’t expect other manufacturers to respond; I think they are still wondering how we can achieve it.”

This last phrase is revealing because, as we all know, the various parties in our industry take very contradictory positions over warranty. We all sell them to customers as a benefit but, for car manufacturers, they are a cost centre and, for franchised workshops, they are a profit opportunity – or at least a way of filling labour hours.

Within the industry, warranty claims are viewed with suspicion. One senior carmaker executive was quoted recently as saying he wouldn’t be extending warranties because “customers would abuse it”. If the quote was true, then that’s an astonishing attitude.
As a result, huge amounts of time and resource are devoted to filing claims, checking them, reviewing them and then either accepting them or rejecting them. Am I the only one who thinks the whole thing has got out of hand?

I’m not so naïve as to believe that every member of the public, every workshop manager and every dealer principal is totally honest. But surely somebody needs to step back and take a fundamental look at the process.

Maybe we could cut costs, clean up our act and reach a point where, if we say ‘lifetime’, we really mean lifetime. It’s just a thought.

Have a great week, both in and out of the showroom. If you have a story for us, or want to get something off your chest, email rupert@auto-retail.com

Rupert Saunders

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