Opinion: STOP binning car service histories

STOP binning car service histories

I know how much the original owner of my Citroen AX GT paid for the car when it was new in September 1989. I also know that he paid £92 for black paint.

I know how much a chap paid for my 1993 Volkswagen Corrado VR6 in 1997, and that he part-exchanged a 1988 Audi Coupe with 52,000 miles on the clock.

I know that in 2009, a new air conditioning condenser was fitted to my Peugeot 406 Coupe because the old one ‘was not getting cold’.

For me, having a full and detailed service history is almost essential. It’s part of a car’s provenance. A biographical insight into the car’s previous life, presented in chronological order.

A stamped service book isn’t enough. These are mere thumbnails, telling just part of the story. Who’s to say what work was done and to what extent? What parts were used? Was the car given a minor service when a major overhaul was due?

A fully stamped book backed by a wedge of receipts and invoices is the holy grail. Without them, your car’s history is as hollow as a politician’s pre-election speech.

‘Get out of litigation free’

Car dealer with receipt

But there’s a problem. In the age of GDPR – and with dealers in fear of litigation – showrooms are alive with the sound of shredders, busy making service histories a thing of the past.

I’ve heard reports of car dealers trashing service records because they contained the names and addresses of previous owners. This removes a layer of provenance from the car, particularly if it’s a classic, and could reduce its value by thousands of pounds.

Figures vary, but this report suggests a car without service history could be worth up to 40 percent less than an equivalent car with a comprehensive CV. I’d wager that in the world of historic racing cars and multi-million dollar classics, the difference could be night and day.

This isn’t a problem confined to someone like me, who gets joy – yes, joy – from finding an older car with original number plates, dealer stickers, an unused cigarette lighter, and more receipts than a sales rep’s glovebox.

In the case of a car still under warranty, if something goes wrong and the car hasn’t been maintained to the manufacturer’s schedule, the cover could be invalid. A stamp in a service book isn’t going to change that.

You can’t blame the car dealers. With the spectre of GDPR looming large – not to mention the prospect of crippling fines – recycling a tome of printed invoices is a quick ‘get out of litigation free’ card.

That said, there’s a broader concern that some unscrupulous sellers could use GDPR as an excuse to remove all traces of some of a car’s less savoury former life or to fabricate recent work. This problem was present in pre-GDPR days – how many invoices magically found their way into the bin when it was time for the car to be sold?

If in doubt, scrub it out

Man inspecting service history

New research from Cap HPI shows that 75 percent of motorists would be put off buying a car without a full service history, so this concern isn’t the preserve of sad anoraks like me.

Is it too simplistic to suggest that a seller who doesn’t want their name and address passed on to the next owner takes a black pen to the receipt? Maybe a pair of scissors would come in handy, but do ask an adult to help you with these.

Could a concerned car dealer adopt a similar approach? If in doubt, scrub it out. But please, don’t chuck it away.

According to Lawgistics, “It is fine to hand over documents about a car’s history to a new owners. Dealers wanting to follow this approach should add a sentence to reflect this processing usage in their privacy notice”. Please seek legal advice of your own.

Moving forward, could franchised dealers and independent garages produce invoices and receipts that contain no personal details? If they show the car’s make, model, registration plate, VIN number and mileage, that ought to be enough.

Common sense is required, please, before anyone gets too trigger happy with the shredding machine.

In case you’re wondering, Mr [name redacted] paid £7,634.90 for the AX. Money well spent, sir. Money well spent.

Lamborghini patents revolutionary electric car tech with university

Lamborghini MIT electric car breakthrough

Lamborghini has teamed up with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to develop new supercapacitor technology to dramatically improve range and performance potential. They have patented a breakthrough that achieves just that.

The patent is for a new synthetic material to be used in the construction of supercapacitors. While large-scale production requires further research, the initial results are highly impressive. Energy density (that is, the amount of power that can be stored) can be increased by up to 100 percent. There’s potential, they say, for much more.

How Lamborghini could increase electric car rangeLamborghini MIT electric car breakthrough

In the same way that, broadly speaking, if you increase the cubic capacity (cc) of an engine, power goes up, so too does the energy density of a supercapacitor if you increase surface area within it. This new material does so, allowing much more electric charge exposure, meaning more energy can be retained.

Lamborghini’s first hybrid, the Sian, was revealed at the 2019 Frankfurt Motor Show. As it sits, it utilises the very latest supercapacitor technology, which is mostly used in racing cars. Lamborghini expects these new advances to far outstrip existing technology in the coming years.

Making stronger batteriesLamborghini MIT electric car breakthrough

In addition to working with MIT’s chemistry department on the new material, Lamborghini has also worked with its mechanical engineering department on battery structure. The goal here is to develop batteries that can be integrated into a vehicle’s structure and potentially take load. The performance standards of battery prototypes are being benchmarked against the figures for the Terzo Millennio electric hypercar concept. Talk about chasing the dream… 

“The joint research with MIT fully embodies our values and our vocation for anticipating the future: a future in which hybridisation is increasingly desirable and inevitably necessary,” said Stefano Domenicali, chairman and chief executive officer of Automobili Lamborghini.

Electric car affordability gap is too wide

Electric car affordability

There’s a great deal of discussion around what barriers face people as they consider the purchase of an electric car. Is it infrastructure? Is it range? Is it cost? For many motorists, cost is the biggest issue.

According to vehicle data provider Glass’s, used car buyers have a typical budget of around £6,000, though many individuals can afford much less.

“The basic affordability question pushes to the core of the desire to change,” says Jonathan Brown, car editor at Glass’s.

Electric car affordability

“Thus far, the desire has not transpired in the market to drive a significant change in demand. Further dampening demand is the battery lease cost applied to many early models that wipes out any cost savings from the ownership equation.”

Looking at the EV used car market, we’re at the point where certain electric models are transitioning to their second generation. As a result, we’re seeing an increasing number of older electric cars in the secondhand classifieds. The numbers of those at auction doubled on average between May and September in 2019, compared to the same period the year before, but the choice remains slim.

Electric car affordability

Two volume models make up most of the choice: the Nissan Leaf and Renault Zoe. Both start from £4,700, and both potentially come with battery leases. Both, at the lower end of the price spectrum, are unlikely to offer a fully charged range of over 100 miles.

“The electric vehicle (EV) revolution has yet to get into its stride in the UK, largely due to affordability. The inevitable change will begin when used car buyers see electric cars as affordable alternatives to internal combustion power,” said Brown.

BMW tech will make your phone into a key for any car

BMW digital key

BMW has announced plans to further develop smart device capabilities for its cars – and those of others. It wants to advance beyond its existing BMW Connected application, which can already lock, unlock and start a car via a smartphone.

BMW joined the Car Connectivity Consortium in 2017, pursuing the standardisation of technologies and car security across the car industry. Its vision? Something like an app that has all of your cars in, which you select as if playing a computer game, with each car controlled in exactly the same way.

At least, that’s what a ‘standardised ecosystem for vehicle access that will enable new functions across multiple devices and different manufacturers’ sounds like to us.

BMW digital key

To achieve this ultimate digital key, BMW says there needs to be compatibility across all varieties of mobile device, including smart watches, and among all car manufacturers. 

“Our customers want cross-vendor interoperability,” said Dr Olaf Müller, head of development for digital access systems at BMW.

“Standardisation is the only way to achieve this; proprietary solutions are no longer beneficial.”

The next generation of digital key

BMW digital key

BMW will launch the second iteration of the digital key soon. It will feature a physical chip that means your car can unlock even if your phone is switched off.

Future developments of this will mean the car and device will be better able to communicate with each other. That means you won’t have to hold your phone up to the door handle. The technology to enable this is already being deployed in current and upcoming smartphones.

Does this end the scourge of keyless car theft? There is obviously the question of this technology being hacked. However, security is apparently a top priority for the Car Connectivity Consortium. 

Formula 1 racing will be carbon-neutral by 2030

F1 net zero carbon 2030

F1 has announced it plans to reach ‘net zero carbon’ by 2030, and make its events fully sustainable by 2025.

What does this mean for the sport? Could the electric F1 car be on its way? Judging by the comments so far, not yet. The key word here is net. There’s talk of using hybrid systems, advanced sustainable fuels and energy recovery systems to reduce the sport’s carbon footprint. 

F1 net zero carbon 2030

“‘With over one billion of the 1.1 billion vehicles in the world powered by internal combustion engines, it has the potential to reduce carbon emissions globally,” said Chase Carey, CEO of Formula 1. “Few people know that the current F1 hybrid power unit is the most efficient in the world, delivering more power using less fuel, and hence CO2, than any other car.

“We believe F1 can continue to be a leader for the auto industry and work with the energy and automotive sector to deliver the world’s first net-zero carbon hybrid internal combustion engine that hugely reduces carbon emissions around the world.”

F1 also plans to adapt the rest of its operation towards the goal of net carbon neutrality. This includes the most efficient logistics possible, plus using offices, facilities and factories that are 100 percent renewably powered.

2025 – sustainable F1 events

F1 wants its events to be sustainable by 2025, which means using sustainable materials at events, and recycling or composting all waste. It also wants to incentivise fans to travel to F1 using greener means.

“In launching F1’s first-ever sustainability strategy, we recognise the critical role that all organisations must play in tackling this global issue,” Carey continued.

“By leveraging the immense talent, passion and drive for innovation held by all members of the F1 community, we hope to make a significant positive impact on the environment and communities in which we operate. The actions we are putting in place from today will reduce our carbon footprint and ensure we are net zero carbon by 2030.”

Comparison sites add £60 to every car insurance quote

Insurance price comparison premiums

A new study reveals that 88 percent of new and young drivers aren’t aware of the added charges that obtaining insurance from a comparison website incurs. Such websites charge insurance companies a commission for policies sold via their platform.

In total, 61 percent of the 750 drivers surveyed said they believed price comparison websites were the best place to find cheap insurance. Just 11 percent said they contacted insurers independently after getting quotations from a comparison site.

Insurance price comparison premiums

According to Honch, the insurance company behind the research, price comparison sites charge £60 per policy sold via their service. And that cost is passed on to policy buyers.

Unsurprisingly, once informed, 97 percent of those questioned said this was unfair.

Insurance price comparison premiums

“Drivers across the UK are being lulled into a false sense of security by price comparison websites, whose marketing tactics and friendly-faced company mascots can be very disarming,” said Gavin Sewell, CEO of Honcho. “However, these companies know exactly what they’re doing when it comes to squeezing a bit more money out of hard-pressed consumers and cover their tracks well

“We’re relieved that regulatory bodies such as the Financial Conduct Authority are beginning to break their silence on the issues currently plaguing the insurance sector and are looking to put measures in place to restore decorum to the industry.”

Europe mandates new car safety tech for 2022

Europe mandates extra car safety tech 2022

A raft of new safety technologies will become mandatory in European vehicles as of 2022. The overall aim: to protect passengers, pedestrians and cyclists.

Human error accounts for 90 percent of fatalities and injuries on our roads, says the European Commission. Advanced safety features will reduce the number of accidents and pave the way towards a connected and automated future, it says.

The Commission expects the proposed measures to save around 25,000 lives and 140,000 injuries by 2038. 

It’s part of a wider plan to ‘help drivers get gradually used to the new driving assistance… [enhancing] public trust and acceptance of automated cars’.

The mandatory safety features will cover cars, vans, trucks and buses. Key features include:

  • For cars, vans, trucks and buses: driver drowsiness and distraction warnings, intelligent speed assistance, reversing safety with camera or sensors, ‘black box’ data recorders in the event of an accident.
  • For cars and vans: lane-keeping assistance, advanced emergency braking, crash-test improved safety belts.
  • For trucks and buses: improve the direct vision of bus and truck drivers, remove blind spots, detect and warn of vulnerable road users.

All will become mandatory from 2022, with the exception of direct vision for trucks and buses, which requires necessary structural design changes.

‘We can and must act’

Road safety charity welcomes tougher seatbelt laws

Commissioner Elzbieta Bienkowska, responsible for internal market, industry, entrepreneurship and SMEs, said: “Every year, 25,000 people lose their lives on our roads. The vast majority of these accidents are caused by human error.

“We can and must act to change this. With the new advanced safety features that will become mandatory, we can have the same kind of impact as when the safety belts were first introduced.

“Many of the new features already exist, in particular in high–end vehicles. Now we raise the safety level across the board, and pave the way for connected and automated mobility of the future.”

Click here for more safety technologies that will become mandatory in 2022.

Girls given toy cars to combat gender stereotypes

Matchbox Mercedes-Benz car

Mercedes-Benz is donating 50,000 toy cars to young girls across America.

It’s part of a plan to challenge gender stereotypes while encouraging girls to pursue science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) careers.

More than 100 organisations will engineer toy racetracks, design cars, engage with female role models and attend STEM workshops. The aim: to expand how girls see their future.

Research show that women represent 29 percent of the current science and engineering workforce in the United States. When pressed for reasons for not majoring in STEM subjects, young women cite a lack of encouragement and role models.

Which is why Mercedes-Benz, in partnership with Mattel and the National Girls Collaborative Project (NGCP), launched the No Limits initiative.

The 50,000 girls participating in the No Limits project will be given a Matchbox Mercedes-Benz 220 SE toy car.

It was in this car that Ewy Rosqvist and co-driver Ursula Wirth became the first all-female crew to win a major rally. In 1962, Rosqvist won the Argentinian Touring Car Grand Prix, finishing over three hours ahead of the rest of the field.

‘Question the gender stereotypes’

Mercedes-Benz toy cars USA

“Whatever they aspire to be – an astronaut, engineer, judge, nurse, even the President, we want all children to dream big, dream bold and never give up on that dream,” said Mark Aikman, general manager of marketing services for Mercedes-Benz USA.

“We’ve seen that stories like Ewy’s – championing women trailblazers and achievers – can have a big impact by calling into question the gender stereotypes that children may inadvertently adopt.”

Karen Peterson, founder and CEO of NGCP, added: “The No Limits initiative is important to the future success of our young girls.

“Demand for workers with STEM-based skills is rapidly growing, yet women are still significantly underrepresented in these fields. We know that gender associations are formed at a very young age. We applaud Mercedes-Benz and Mattel in their efforts to breakdown the gender stereotypes that keep young girls from engaging in STEM studies.”

If you’re not one of the 50,000 girls who’ll be gifted a Matchbox Mercedes, the toy car will be sold in stores across America from December. Just in time for Christmas… 

Auto Trader introduces ‘fair’ and ‘high’ price flags on ads

Auto Trader user upgrade

Auto Trader is upgrading the way its listings look. The car sales website is adding new features to help buyers feel more confident as they search the classifieds for their next car.

The changes will roll out across all platforms from early December.

In Auto Trader’s 2019 Car Buyers Report, it was revealed that 86 percent of buyers are concerned they can’t trust car dealers. Likewise, 88 percent worry they aren’t getting a good deal, while 85 percent are question the accuracy of the information about a car.

These are three key changes Auto Trader will make.

Consumer reviews

Reviews from customers of car retailers are being brought forward, to reinforce buyers’ trust in vendors.

Auto Trader wants to put its consumer reviews to better use, to corroborate other rewards and recommendations car sellers may have.

Price flags

Auto Trader upgrades

Auto Trader will be adding to its ‘low’, ‘great’ and ‘good’ price indicators, with ‘fair’ and ‘high’. It’s believed that buyers’ hesitance around pricing is a key barrier to doing the deal. With more comprehensive ‘flags’, Auto Trader hopes to put buyers at ease, and help them be sure they’re paying what they should.

The company claims that its valuations are ‘the most accurate reflection of the live retail market’. They include analysis of more than 1.9 million vehicles each day. Valuations are afforded depending on age, mileage and specification.

Mileage and spec indicators

Auto Trader user upgrade

To help buyers find the specific cars, extra feature indicators are also being added. This means mileage and deal-critical optional extras can be highlighted in a listing.

Content relating to the car, including the description and spec, is being moved up the page, in order to help buyers find what is being offered more efficiently.

It takes 60 weeks to become a ‘good driver’

Drivers only 'good' after 60 weeks on the road

On average, UK motorists think it takes well over a year (60 weeks) to become a ‘good driver’. And 17 percent said it takes more than two years (100 weeks) to reach a ‘good’ level.

A quarter of the 1,000 motorists surveyed by YoungDriver said when they passed their test, they were ‘extremely nervous’. Only one in 10 thought they were over-confident.

On average, British learner drivers take between 40 and 50 hours to pass the driving test.

Drivers only 'good' after 60 weeks on the road

“We all know that experience is key to being a safer driver,” said Sue Waterfield, head of marketing at YoungDriver.

“Sadly, when youngsters first pass their test, that can often be lacking, which can lead to moments of hesitation or dangerous choices being made, resulting in an accident. That’s why we’re so keen to help young people get more experience behind the wheel – and it’s the premise behind Young Driver. If you already know how to drive the car by the time you start on the road lessons, you can concentrate much more on hazard perception and other road users, rather than how to control the clutch.”

YoungDriver has teamed up with Quentin Wilson to publish a book to help. The goal is to educate parents on the modern driving test. 

Drivers only 'good' after 60 weeks on the road

“Although parents often have great nostalgia around learning to drive, the reality when they get behind the wheel with their child can be arguments, stress and tears,” said Quentin Willson.

“Most parents learned to drive decades ago and the test has changed dramatically since then, meaning they can give conflicting advice, confusing the learner. I’ve written this book in an easy-to-read style with lots of illustrations because with preparation and planning, parent, child and approved driving instructor can make a really strong team, leading to the best possible outcome in terms of creating a safe, confident and skilled driver. And that’s good news for all road users.”