Wednesday, 29 December 2010

5 Things You Can Do That Will Void Your Car Warranty

With Christmas still sitting heavily om my stomach I fired the laptop up to see what wise (?) words were being uttered across the Internet about Car Warranties. I use Google to monitor this and other automotive topics and much of what I find is drivel, nonsense or irrelevant as it is not UK centric. Therefore USA postings I almost always discount. Fortunately I didn't discount this AOL Autos article by Tom Torbjorsen (Maintenance Editor for AOL Autos)

Entitled 5 Dumb Things That Can Void Your Car Warranty this blog highlights some very relevant ownership issues that would indeed potentially impact your car warranty be it an aftermarket warranty, like ours, or the original manufacturers cover.

The key pieces of advice are:
  1. Fluids - Use the proper recommended fluids as specified by the car manufacturer
  2. Receipts - keep all receipts relating to servicing, parts and repairs
  3. Tyres and Wheels - keep to the recommended tyres/ wheel sizes for your vehicle and do not modify the suspension
  4. Performance and modifications - do not "chip" or modify your car
  5. Towing - don't tow more than the vehicle is designed to manage

The article is littered with reference to American legislation but is full of great advice and comment around warranties in general including consequential and non consequential damage.

The full article is available here and is worth a read as it is sound advice on car warranties for the New Year Ahead

Saturday, 25 September 2010

How Could It Have Gone So Wrong?

We are regulated by the Financial Services Authority FSA. Our FSA number is 501301 and you can check this out on the FSA Register.
It means that we adhere to a code of practice that is basically designed to ensure good governance of our company to protect the interests of our customers.

All very sensible and as we go through our annual assessments, training and compliance documentation I have been reminded of the FSA's 11 "Principle for Business" which I have listed below.

I have tested our company against these principles and I hold them up as sound business practice. Which leaves me with the original question. If these are the principles that the FSA have set for all of the financial industry - "How Could It Have Gone So Wrong?"
  1. A Firm must conduct its business with integrity
  2. A Firm must conduct its business with due skill, care and diligence
  3. A Firm must take reasonable care to organise and control its affairs responsibly and effectively, with adequate risk management systems
  4. A Firm must maintain adequate financial resources
  5. A Firm must observe proper standards of market conduct
  6. A Firm must pay due regard to the interests of its customers and treat them fairly
  7. A Firm must pay due regard to the information needs of its clients, and communicate information to them in a way which is clear, fair and not misleading
  8. A Firm must manage conflicts of interest fairly, between both itself and its customers and between customers and another client
  9. A Firm must take reasonable care to ensure the suitability of its advice and discretionary decisions for any customer who is entitled to rely upon its judgement
  10. A Firm must arrange adequate protection for Clients' assets when it is responsible for them
  11. A Firm must deal with its regulators in an open cooperative way, and must disclose to the FSA appropriately

Friday, 23 July 2010

Going on holiday in a company car? You need a VE103

So the roads will be clearer from next week thanks to the schools breaking up for the summer holidays.

This will mean many of us heading to foreign shores and lots of us in our cars or perhaps company cars.

If you have a company car that is on contract hire with a leasing company you MUST get permission from the leasing company to take the car abroad. This is known as a Travel Authority or a VE103

Some leasing companies may charge you for the form (it does actually cost them money to use the form template plus the issue of posting it out etc) but DO NOT be tempted to travel without one.

Failure to be able to produce a valid VE103 (they last 12 months) will lead to a hefty fine and your vehicle being impounded until you can produce a valid form , which I suggest just might take the edge off your holiday.

Monday, 21 June 2010

Top 10, Roof Down Stereo Up, Driving Songs

Last night the weather man on the BBC spoke these words: "Summer is here" So what with that, the arrival on Friday of my wife's new car (Great Timing me) and the official (?) arrival of summer via the summer solstice, I am now in need of compiling the ultimate mix of "roof down, volume up" tunes. All suggestions welcome but here are my starter for 10 (groan)

All Right Now - Free
Born to be Wild - Steppnwolf
Layla - Derek and the Dominos
Are you gonna go my way - Lenny Kravitz
Cars - Gary Numan
Boys of Summer - Don Henley
Summer of 69 - Bryan Adams
Sweet Home Alabama - Lynyrd Skynyrd
Insomnia - Faithless (great at night)
Summertime - DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince


Saturday, 5 June 2010

JD Power Customer Satisfaction Index 2010

The JD Power results, in association with What Car, were announced last week with Lexus coming out top for the 10th consecutive year. My congratulations go out to them and Toyota (5th) particularly in light of all the media noise around recent recalls.

However there is a part of me that feels this congratulatory note accompanying the overall results is a little over the top? The industry average for customer satisfaction by manufacturer was 78.9%. The Lexus winning score was around 2% higher than the closest rival Honda, but even then their winning total was 84.6%.

Post scrappage I can't help but think that, especially when you consider the cost of buying and owning a new car, dealers and manufacturers really do need to try to make owning a car more of a satisfying experience.

Our Car Breakdown Cover Is Even Better Than Before

From the 1st June our new Breakdown Cover will come under the banner of "AutoAssist".

This new car breakdown policy will add even more peace of mind thanks to improved service levels, increased national coverage and better utilisation of recovery vehicles. All this will ensure you and your passengers get on your way again as quickly as possible and not passed from one provider to another like some kind of relay baton. Even better news is we've made it cheaper

Just £75 per annum for: Roadside, Recovery and At Home cover

Monday, 31 May 2010

Car Face

No not some dreadful movie pun, I just think that sometimes I can see a real humanesque face on certain cars. This car is such a happy looking car whilst the steering wheel of the new Insignia reminds me of some mad alien

Do you see faces in your car? Let me know

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

App my Ride

In the so-called “App My Ride” competition, users can jointly develop new Infotainment applications with Volkswagen.

A jury of experts will select the winner whose creativity will be rewarded with special prizes. “Our aim is to invite the international developer community to take part in designing a future system,” says Prof. Dr Jürgen Leohold, Head of the Volkswagen Group Research. So-called apps, have helped to contribute to the smartphone boom. Applications designed by users (User Generated Content) are of central importance to the boom and are made available online by other users. Companies like Apple and Google successfully aid this nearly inexhaustible source of innovation.

“A quiet revolution is taking place right now,” explains Dr Johann Füller, CEO of the innovation agency partner to Volkswagen through the “App My Ride” competition. “The customer-orientated culture of the internet places an enormous power in the hands of the users. Leading organisations are starting to harness this power to develop better solutions and increase their competitiveness.” Exactly what the “App My Ride” contest is targeting.

Currently a prototype for Volkswagen’s Infotainment system is being developed in which Flash applications designed by different creators can be accumulated. In order to research the potential of apps for the vehicle Infotainment system, Volkswagen is trying to produce the most varied collection of applications possible.

An “innovation community” open to all internet users will be created from 3May 2010 for the competition under the following URL:

Here, participants in the competition can log in and either load programmed apps or send in their creative ideas for future ones. “The participants are supposed to imagine what the purpose of their ideal Infotainment system is and how it would work and now they have the opportunity to make it a reality. At the same time, you can analyse the existing apps on our platform and discuss their design, uses and purposes,” explains Dr Peter Oel, Head of “Control Designs and Drivers” of Volkswagen Group Research.

To develop an app, the participants must have the following:
- An idea for an app to be installed in a vehicle
- Graphic design of the user interface
- Programming in Adobe Flash / Flex

The purpose, design and logical construction of the app should be geared towards the possible requirements of drivers and other occupants.

The participant’s creativity will be rewarded at the end of the competition. The most innovative application will be chosen by the “App My Ride” community and a jury consisting of Volkswagen managers and external experts. Besides cash and non-cash prizes worth up to €14,000, a special prize for students will also be awarded. This involves a placement within Volkswagen Group Research in Tokyo, Shanghai,California or Wolfsburg. Moreover, the winner of the competition can also expect an exclusive trip to take part in an international vehicle presentation which covers the costs of the flight and hotel

Saturday, 6 February 2010

BT Tradespace - Possibly all is forgiven

My Bt Tradespace account was one of the first online tools I embraced when I launched CarCare Direct

I Loved it. I met lots of great people, nearly all of whom I am still in regular contact with, discovered Twitter via it and got lots of excellent advice and referrals. Yes it was a bit slow at times, and yes the "whoops" message got a bit tedious when the page you'd spent ages on wouldn't load worked, especially for Google rankings and searches, and when I say it worked I mean page one for key words within 3 months.

How excited was I then about the refresh? Answer: Very!

Sadly the November launch slipped and then lots didn't work. Many people were getting very cross, and I don't blame them as I was super frustrated. Here was my Google ranking machine BROKEN!

Over the next few weeks I returned occasionally to find my questions still unanswered, buried under a tonne of other complaints and postings from some unhappy people. But how much can you complain when it's FREE? I decided "not much" and so virtually walked away.

However yesterday for, no good reason I decided to see if anything had changed. The look was the same (and as a self confessed Luddite I don't like it as much to look at as the old one) but it seemed to respond quicker. My frustrations over the way my content had been transferred was suddenly fairly easy to fix. Loading images was painless, I'd go as far to say as quite quick and suddenly, suddenly my site looked OK.

I still have more to do, but more I shall for the new BT Tradespace is vastly improved over the excellent original and the issues, on today's evidence at least, appear to be fixed

This is my CarCare-Direct.bttradespace account. I'd love to know what you think of it and to hear your experiences too.

If you did have a BT Tradespace I'd suggest giving it another go and if you didn't, well it seems you may have nothing to lose :)

Friday, 5 February 2010

Follow Friday - One stop car sales shop

I have a number of motortrade twitter friends, some are journalists, some are magazines and some actually buy and sell cars.

Ooh I thought they'd be a good bunch to do a follow Friday blog on. Many of them are jolly good twitterers like @Dealdrivers who not only shares some of the latest offers but also the tribulations of running her business and offers support, comment and a dollop of humour in her tweets. I am extra biased as we've met and enjoy a history in the Contract Hire and leasing world.

I quickly scanned through my followers to create a listing. First stop was to look at today's stream @BarrieCrampton appeared with his normal comments and links to the news. His is a bricks and mortars site with a clever web cam idea

@MotorTorque is a breed of on line retailers who post lots of tweets on interesting motoring stories so have an appeal even if you're not ready to buy

@carandvandeals mused with me this week what a diverse possibility of followers/followees there are...and so I was amazed to find that out of my c.749 followers I have 19 whose core business is selling and/or buying cars.

So if you are in the market for a new or used car, or perhaps have a car to sell or would just like to find some twitters who tweet and interact on all things cars and more then I'd give them a follow. However if you do buy a car from them remember that you might want to buy your extended car warranty, RAC breakdown cover or Service plan from me ;)

Here's my full list:

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Total Recall - Why the Toyota media frenzy is a bit bonkers

Let me start by saying that I think the way Toyota are handling the recall issue, around the sticking accelerator pedal, has been entirely proper.

They have acknowledged that there is a problem and, despite a lack of any real incidents, acknowledged that a potential risk does exist for their drivers. They have identified the fault, designed and manufactured a replacement part, listed all affected vehicles, organised extended opening hours at their dealers and engaged on every media known to man kind (bar a small sign on the moon perhaps?)
For twitterers there have been lots of news and I must say that I thought @ToyotaPR typified the candid, open and apologetic stance on the Today Programme on Radio 4.
Toyota owners/drivers will no doubt be concerned about their cars and will no doubt endure some stick from friends and colleagues but before we all lose total perspective I'd like to alert you to VOSA Vehicle Recall web page
Pick a manufacturer and enter the same affected dates as the current batch of Toyota's and then ask yourself :
"Can you remember hearing about this recall and is the manufacturer doing as much as Toyota are for its drivers?"
Toyota have a reputation for the reliability of their cars. I'd suggest that this unfortunate event should also enhance their reputation as a manufacturer that behaves reliably as well
For full details on the Toyota recall click here

Friday, 29 January 2010

Follow Friday, Re tweets and Great Service

Currently I am doing some consultancy work for a large Financial Services organisation, advising on their Vehicle Fleet offering. As part of this work the subject of social media has frequently come up and in particular Twitter.

Sadly, due to their IT police I am unable to show all the clever apps and tools that make Twitter less labour intensive, but I have had the chance to explain the fundamentals, etiquette, business opportunity and sociability that us users recognise.

As part of my explanation I shared the principle of the re tweet (RT). Confidently, because I have great followers I posted the following tweet:

Big favour can someone pls RT this for me so I can show how it works? Thanks :)

There followed a short pause and then @NikkiPilkington re tweeted it, and then @ScottMBrownlee and then all of these people:

Today I am explaining Follow Friday and my suggestion is simple. Follow all of the above because they get how twitter can and should work

From a business and a customer perspective Twitter has been fabulous this week for me as well. My poor Mum is in hospital this week, having a major back operation, and I wanted something, other than a bunch of flowers, to cheer her up. Thanks to some fabulous tweeting and interaction I was fortunate enough to come across @balloonbaboon who makes balloon models. I’ve loved all her tweets and all the pics and links to her balloon range and so a balloon bouquet was an obvious choice. I ordered it and a truly wonderful balloon creation arrived on time and brought a smile to my mums face as she opened the package. I was delighted

You may then want to think about following her too

Have a great weekend :)

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Saab Saved and I for one am pleased

I must make it clear I have a huge soft spot for this brand and not just because my wife drives one.

The brand has a long history of some iconic cars and yes the critisism that GM may have not added much to this history has some truth, tell that to some very happy current owners.

The 9-3 Convertible is a lovely car to drive with the roof down and its owners love them (see Joe's write up if you don't believe me Saab Convertible Test driven)

Me, I love the seats, they are so comfortable. The cup holder in the 9-3 is a work of art and who isn't tempted to press the night button and settle down for some serious nocturnal driving pretending you are a stealth fighter pilot? (oh apperently I may be alone)

I have lots of friends who work within Saab dealers in the UK and represent the brand and for these guys I am delighted that after the stress of so much uncertainty they can crack on with managing their business again

I hope that Spyker will bring back some of the old heritage as the mixture of these two motor manaufacturers would suggest some seductive cars could be on the cards, the future is bright

Please see below the Press release below

The Press Release

GM Reaches Agreement to Sell Saab to Spyker
DETROIT - General Motors and Spyker Cars NV today confirmed that they have reached a binding agreement on the purchase of Saab Automobile AB.
"Today's announcement is great news for Saab employees, dealers and suppliers, great news for millions of Saab customers and fans worldwide, and great news for GM," said John Smith, GM vice president for corporate planning and alliances.
"General Motors, Spyker Cars, and the Swedish government worked very hard and creatively for a deal that would secure a sustainable future for this unique and iconic brand, and we're all happy for the positive outcome," Smith said.
As part of the agreement, Spyker intends to form a new company, Saab Spyker Automobiles, which will carry the Saab brand forward. The sale will be subject to customary closing conditions, including receipt of applicable regulatory, governmental and court approvals. Other terms and conditions specific to the sale will be disclosed in due time.
The Swedish government is at present reviewing the transaction and the related request for guarantees of a Saab Automobile loan that has been requested from the European Investment Bank. Assuming quick action, the transaction is expected to close in mid-February, and previously announced wind down activities at Saab will be immediately suspended, pending the close of the transaction.
"Throughout the negotiations, GM has always had the hope to find a solution for Saab that would avoid a wind down of the brand," added Nick Reilly, president, GM Europe. "We've worked with many parties over the past year, including governments and investors, and I'm very pleased that we could come to such a good conclusion, one that preserves jobs in Sweden and elsewhere. GM will continue to support Saab and Spyker on their way forward."

About General Motors: General Motors, one of the world's largest automakers, traces its roots back to 1908. With its global headquarters in Detroit, GM employs 204,000 people in every major region of the world and does business in some 140 countries. GM and its strategic partners produce cars and trucks in 34 countries, and sell and service these vehicles through the following brands: Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, GMC, GM Daewoo, Holden, Opel, Vauxhall and Wuling. GM's largest national market is the United States, followed by China, Brazil, Germany, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Italy. GM's OnStar subsidiary is the industry leader in vehicle safety, security and information services. General Motors acquired operations from General Motors Corporation on July 10, 2009, and references to prior periods in this and other press materials refer to operations of the old General Motors Corporation. More information on the new General Motors can be found at
Saab background: Saab entered the auto business in 1949 with the first model 92. Its aerodynamic shape and advanced technology drew from the company's roots as an aircraft maker, and helped create what was to become a loyal and passionate customer base. GM acquired a 50 percent stake in Saab in 1990, and acquired the balance of Saab in 2000. As part of its strategy to focus on its four strongest brands in the U.S., GM began seeking a buyer for Saab in January 2009, a concerted effort that led to today's announcement.

Monday, 11 January 2010

In Ya Face

For many of us the roads around where we live are starting to improve but with freezing conditions still fore casted we must not get lulled into a false sense of security, so I urge you to remain vigilant

I'd also suggest that for those venturing out for the first time since the heavy snow that you take a few minutes to clear the worst of any snow off your cars roof and bonnet. Much is frozen in place but as your car warms up it can move as one gigantic snow slab.

Have taken one "in the face" on my trip along the A34 this morning from the car in front I can assure you it can lead to something of a "trouser" moment.

Friday, 8 January 2010

Wibble wobble Diesel Jelly on a plate

The switch to diesel cars during the noughties has been huge. This has been fuelled (groan) by a company car taxation, the desire of drivers to switch to cars with lower Co2, the allure of higher mpg and because they got better and more fun to drive

With such a switch have come some unforeseen perils. The biggest to date has been miss fuelling (I'll save that for now) but in these extreme cold weather the risk of diesel freezing or more accurately turning t jelly, is real.

With -20C forecast in some parts of the UK, the IAM (Institute of Advanced Motorists) is warning drivers of diesel cars to remember that their fuel can wax over in extremely low temperatures, which could damage the fuel filter and lead to a breakdown.

Neil Greig. IAM Head of Policy and research said: "waxing is the formation of crystals in the diesel which block the filter

If you drive a diesel vehicle it pays to try and park it in a garage or sheltered area, and try not to leave your vehicle unused for too log"

"If you can't park in a garage, try to park so the front of the car is pointing out of the wind. After starting the engine, let it idle for 10 minutes before driving of, as this will let the heat from the engine warn the filter and pipes."

Another risk is where water or condensation builds up in the fuel tank. This though is easily combated by keeping the fuel tank full.

There are additives that can be bought, but sadly these must be added before the problem occurs and there might be some warranty issues, so read the labels carefully. Some people advocate the use of hairdryers on frozen pipes but I am reticent of using any indoor electrical appliance outdoors, especially stood in a foot of snow. If you have a problem the best answer, for those with with home start cover, is to call your car breakdown provider

So with colder weather forecast it just might be worth starting your diesel car and letting it run for a bit, before tucking it up, out of the cold. After all jelly really is best for birthdays