Hyundai gave their cars a 5 year warranty to overcome their out-of-date reputation for being shody.
Kia trumped them with a 7 year warranty in order to grab some headlines.
Vauxhall, who have pretty much always been the UK’s second most popular car maker, decided to trump the lot with a “lifetime” warranty.
All these warranties have small print and question marks; Kia don’t cover wear and tear for example, only design faults. I suspect that a 6 year old car owner is really going to struggle to make the case that a failure is down to anything but wear and tear.
And all these warranties have strings attached; they require a full manufacturer service history. Yes, in theory you can get that at any garage because of the block exemption laws, but most people don’t want to chance it.
But Vauxhall’s warranty seems particularly slippery. The lifetime is defined, but not as long as you live, or as long as the car still has a chassis that is more metal than rust.
No, it is defined as 100,000 miles. Plus, it only applies to the first owner (other warranties go with the car). So all used Vauxhall buyers just get the remainder of the standard (and perfectly reasonable) three years. But they now feel they are getting less than they might – always a bad signal to send customers.
Rather than trying to just send a message of quality and faith in their product, Vauxhall have set out their stall as clearly wanting to appeal to more new car buyers.
Their warranty says to me, “the product is only going to last 3 years, but we want your business so we’ll take it on the chin if you own the car longer.”
Presumably they hoped it would lure in some Volkswagen Golf buyers who go German because of their reputation for reliability.
So I was amused to meet a Head Master recently who cares not a jot for cars. He needs one to get to work and wants it to be reliable and cheap. Full stop.
For a decade, he has bought a new Vauxhall Coras on finance. When the finance expired after three years, rather than risk getting repair bills, he would get another new Corsa on a new finance deal. His cars cost him the same every month and every year and he was a happy repeat customer. Some might say a dream customer.
But as he came to the end of his most recent finance plan, because the car was under a lifetime warranty, he decided to keep it. Saving himself £200 a month and still sleeping soundly because he has a full manufacturer warranty.
So, in summary, the Vauxhall warranty has lost them a new car sale. They already had the service work, and while they retain that, he’ll now get the cheaper fixed price services.
I can’t help but wonder what will happen if our Head Master breaks down from something that the manufacturer doesn’t want to cover under the warranty. He’s probably not going to remain loyal to Vauxhall.
You have to hand it to the public, their ability to see a loophole in a proposition is uncannily canny. But it does create unfortunate unintended consequences.