Robot typing, for Big Mike CD 195Robot typing, for Big Mike CD 195


Big Mike: Intelligence of the artificial kind is no match for wisdom when selling used cars

Our mystery used car dealer columnist has one or two things to get off his chest about the rise of artificial intelligence

Time 7:32 am, June 2, 2024

Call me a grumpy old man by all means (I am one, after all) but I have a new pet hate and it’s driving me round the twist.

It’s the robots. Like with many other industries, the second-hand car market is being slowly but surely infiltrated by artificial intelligence, although on recent form I feel I have to question the second part of that.

Not least because those who use it are often lacking in much of it themselves. One thing that’s becoming increasingly more prevalent is the use of AI assistance to create for-sale listings, notably on popular auction sites where there’s now a lazy button that users can press to generate an AI description of the car they’ve got up for sale.

The problem is, a robot that hasn’t seen a particular car can’t really tell you much about it. A professional used car dealer can, but we’ll come to that. First, though, I want to play a game of ‘Guess The Car’.

Number one: This is a great choice for those looking for a reliable and efficient car. The car belongs to the Cars, Motorcycles & Vehicles category and falls under the Vauxhall/Opel and Cars subcategories.

This car is perfect for those who value fuel efficiency and reliability. It has been well maintained and is in great working condition. The car has a sleek design and is comfortable to drive.

Yep. You guessed it – it’s a 14-year-old Vauxhall Meriva with 158k on the clock. Efficient(ish), I guess, but I wouldn’t stake my own professional reputation on a small-engined Vauxhall with that kind of mileage lasting forever – and no matter how much I squint, I can’t make a Meriva look sleek even in the most forgiving of my mind’s eyes.

Number two: This is a reliable and sturdy saloon car with a diesel engine. It comfortably seats up to 5 people and has a mileage of 145,000. The car has had 5 previous owners and comes with a partial service history.

The exterior is handsome and comes in a sleek black colour, with a right-hand drive and 4 doors. The interior is black and has all the necessary features for a smooth and comfortable ride.

The car comes with an MOT expiry of September 2024 to ensure it is fit for the road. Now, apart from the fact that I’m actually a bit of a stickler for correct grammar and believe that any number below 10 should be written in full, that’s the least of this listing’s issues.

First up, an MOT pass eight months ago does not ensure a car is fit for the road. It could have any number of problems. I also don’t know what all of the necessary features for a smooth and comfortable ride are. I’m assuming the bot means it has seats.

Any ideas as to what the ‘handsome’ machine in question is? Well, of course it’s a 2005 Peugeot 407 – a car that looks like a gurning fish, whose rear end was designed by a different team to those who did the front.

I’m also going to question that ‘fit for the road’ statement again, because I don’t think I’d be putting a huge amount of faith in a 19-year-old Peugeot.

On to number three then: ‘This isn’t just a vehicle; it’s a reliable companion that’s ready to create new memories on the road. Every trip in this fun-to-drive car will leave a lasting impression. Contact us today to learn more about this exceptional hatchback.’

I’m all for pushing the boundaries but the car we’re talking about here is a 2008 Perodua Myvi – at one point, Britain’s cheapest car. And while I don’t doubt that it will leave a lasting impression, I can’t see that being an especially positive one for the majority of drivers. A few hardcore fans of budget motoring, perhaps, but in my experience they’re an entirely different breed.

I once took a 270,000-mile Perodua in part-exchange from a man who drove it 250 miles a day, but I expect he was the exception to the rule. Irritating as these listings may be, there’s a serious side to this as well.

While a private seller might press the magic listing button as the path of least (laziest?) resistance, if any professional trader does the same, it’s like lifting the ring pull on the biggest can of worms you could wish to eat.

Who is to blame if a robot tells the customer that a car is fit for the road and it turns out to have a potentially dangerous fault?

The answer is you – because every car that you sell is sold under the Consumer Rights Act 2015, which offers the buyer a level of protection for up to six months and also means that you have to ensure the car is fit for the road. And by that, I don’t mean one that went through an MOT test last September…

This column appears in the current edition of Car Dealer – issue 195 – along with news, reviews, features and more. You can read and download it for FREE here!

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Car Dealer has been covering the motor trade since 2008 as both a print and digital publication. In 2020 the title went fully digital and now provides daily motoring updates on this website for the car industry. A digital magazine is published once a month.

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