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