Jeremy Clark­son on the worst four hours of his life in a Hyundai i800.

The Weekend Australian - Life - - FOOD & WINE - JOHN CON­NOLLY

Try this quick quiz: you run your own car rental busi­ness and de­cide you can in­crease prof­its by lying to cus­tomers, telling them they have dam­aged the ve­hi­cles they have rented and then charg­ing them to fix them. When Con­sta­ble Plod found out, would you ex­pect to: 1) go to jail; 2) cop a big fine; 3) both of the above; or 4) be told to sit in the naughty cor­ner for a day and do bet­ter in the fu­ture.

The cor­rect an­swer for you is three but, as this is Aus­tralia and the com­pany is a big multi­na­tional, the cor­rect an­swer for it is four.

Ac­cord­ing to the court en­force­able un­der­tak­ing pub­lished on the Aus­tralian Com­pe­ti­tion & Consumer Com­mis­sion’s web­site, “from at least Novem­ber 2013 to Au­gust 2015, Hertz in­cor­rectly made rep­re­sen­ta­tions to some of its cus­tomers that: the ve­hi­cle the cus­tomer hired from Hertz had sus­tained dam­age dur­ing the cus­tomers’ rental pe­riod when, in fact, the dam­age was pre-ex­ist­ing and not caused dur­ing the cus­tomer’s rental pe­riod”. And didn’t ACCC deputy chair­man and rental car con­sumers’ friend Mick Schaper come out swing­ing: “This case serves as a mes­sage to ve­hi­cle rental com­pa­nies that they must have ro­bust com­pli­ance pro­ce­dures in place.” Well, Mick, that cer­tainly has Hertz shak­ing in its boots. Last fi­nan­cial year Hertz re­ported a $400 mil­lion turn­around on $2 bil­lion of sales.

But wait, there’s more: the ACCC has been chas­ing Europ­car since 2014 al­leg­ing that this car rental com­pany “en­gaged in mis­lead­ing or de­cep­tive con­duct and made false or mis­lead­ing rep­re­sen­ta­tions on its web­site re­gard­ing the max­i­mum amount that a cus­tomer would be li­able for if there was loss or dam­age to the rental ve­hi­cle or third-party loss”.

So Mick, wouldn’t you think that if two rental car com­pa­nies may have been up to hanky-panky it’s a fair bet the rest might be do­ing the same?

Look, why would you ex­pect more from the au­to­mo­tive in­dus­try? Car com­pa­nies make banks and Bri­tish Vir­gin Is­land com­pa­nies look like saints.

Volk­swa­gen has ad­mit­ted 11 mil­lion of its ve­hi­cles were equipped with soft­ware used to cheat on emis­sion tests. Last year in the US more than 100 mil­lion cars were re­called. That’s al­most one in ev­ery two cars on Amer­i­can roads.

How about good old Ja­panese safety com­pany Takata? The lads in Tokyo “who dream of a world with zero fa­tal­i­ties from traf­fic ac­ci­dents” have been mak­ing an ex­plod­ing airbag that shoots metal into the car’s oc­cu­pants.

As Car and Driver mag­a­zine said last week: “Ini­tially, only six makes were in­volved … but a Toy­ota re­call in June — along with new ad­mis­sions from Takata that it had lit­tle clue as to which cars used its de­fec­tive in­fla­tors, or even what the root cause was — prompted more au­tomak­ers to is­sue iden­ti­cal re­calls.” So far 40 mil­lion cars are on the re­call list.

In bet­ter news, we had a huge night at the Sport­ing Car Club of South Aus­tralia (world’s sec­ond old­est car club) last week. I de­pressed the mem­bers with my view of the fu­ture of the global auto in­dus­try, bal­anced with a su­per mixed grill (sausage, steak, patty AND chicken) washed down with some of South Aus­tralia’s cheap­est.

Put Novem­ber 17-20 in your di­ary for the club-or­gan­ised Ade­laide Mo­tor­sport Fes­ti­val. It’s like Good­wood with­out as many Poms. You can en­ter the first day of the Clas­sic Ade­laide Rally in any sort of car. How­ever, the club has banned my ute, so I will be there with the BMW driver’s friend Michael McMichael in some­thing se­ri­ous.

In the worst news since the in­ven­tion of the radar gun, Jo Pock­ling­ton is leav­ing the His­toric Win­ton af­ter this year’s 40th run­ning of the event in late May. Jo has been pub­lic­ity of­fi­cer for Aus­tralia’s largest all-his­toric mo­tor race meet­ing for 30 years. Un­like the killjoys at the Sport­ing Car Club, Jo has in­sisted I bring the

Week­end Aus­tralian ute, which will be straight from its ma­jor suc­cess in the Shit­box Rally. Join Jo and me for a drink and what­ever I have left to give away af­ter the rally (you know pens, bags, Mark South­cott’s Moke and for­mer ed­i­tors). Jo is pay­ing for the drinks.

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