When is a “new” car actually new?
A recent reader inquiry highlighted an important issue for new car buyers in the current climate: when is “new” actually “new”? There are depots full of unsold “new” cars across Europe, and even across Ireland. Anyone arriving in Rosslare harbour gets a glimpse of some of the new cars in storage. That’s only the start of it, for off the Naas Road there are several fields full of newly arrived cars.
After the financial crash of September 2008, the production lines continued to spit out thousands of cars, oblivious to the sharp decline in forecourt sales. By the time the full affect of the sales decline was being felt, vast storage car parks at plants and ports were bumper-to-bumper with cars. Stories abound of car firms renting multi-storey car parks in some European port cities to store the new arrivals.
The fact is that thousands of unsold cars produced towards the end of 2008 and in 2009 were left idle while the market bottomed out.
Sensibly, like so many other industries, the aim will be to shift these cars first before new ones arrive. However, with seven-year model lifecycles continuing apace, car firms need to keep the production lines moving and the new cars keep coming, while the fields fill up with the unsold vehicles.
The situation in Sweden last March illustrates the point. Only 14,603 cars were sold in Sweden in February 2009, but the port of Malmo had over 30,000 newly imported cars of all brands piling up in its port. With a maximum storage capacity of about 27,500 it had to hire a large transport ship, the Morning Glory, to store the excess. Thankfully the European markets have recovered, in part due to the introduction of scrappage schemes.
However, what happens if you buy one of these “new” cars that may actually have left the factory two or even three years ago. Just like with any white goods – TVs etc – the key issue is not when it was produced but that it is of the standard and equipment listed on the latest models. If, for example, it doesn’t meet the specification in the brochure then you really should seek a discount. Of utmost importance is that the engine meets the latest standards. Car firms are focusing on carbon emissions these days and often make annual improvements in lowering the emissions levels. You need to be sure you are getting the latest – and lowest CO2 – engine on offer.
One way to guarantee piece of mind – and ensure you can get a full refund if you later find out the car is not as new as advertised – is to ask the salesperson straight out when this car was produced and if it is the latest technology on sale from the company. Ideally get it in writing. If it’s not as you requested, then you will have a clear-cut case under Consumer Protection legislation and the National Consumer Agency will be happy to hear from you.