Big Mike CD 191 250159_XC90_Frontal_Offset_CrashBig Mike CD 191 250159_XC90_Frontal_Offset_Crash


Big Mike: Stupid is as stupid does, despite the best intentions of car makers it would seem

Our popular mystery used car dealer columnist finds the plethora of safety aids in cars these days bewildering – so he can’t but help wonder why people still manage to have car accidents

Time 8:13 am, January 28, 2024

I find at this time of year that the vast majority of cars I sell are bought out of need rather than desire – distress purchases, if you will.

As such, I tend to put away the sports cars, convertibles, modern classics and performance models I’ve bought into stock until we see the first green shoots of spring.

A shame really, as the ‘interesting’ stuff is very much where my business is headed these days.

The buyers are usually a far higher calibre (or are at least sane) and the margins are good, you get fewer comebacks and you generally end up dealing with people who are buying a car because they want one rather than out of necessity.

This means they’re much more amenable to giving you a few days to complete things like a pre-sale service and arrange a new MOT – I don’t really see any point in getting a car tested to sit on the lot for a couple of months when I can wave it down the road with a fresh ticket, and customers largely prefer them freshly tested, too.

I’ve sold two distress purchase cars in the past week – a Ford Focus and Peugeot 3008 – to people who were desperate for wheels.

The Peugeot was bought with an insurance pay-out, and the Focus – a part-ex-to-clear cheapie – went to a bloke who was waiting for his insurance to cough up after he stacked the family Qashqai the week before Christmas.

Obviously, in both cases I was serving a need and happy to do business, although I was more than a little nervous going for test drives with the customers – and I have a very good reason why.

Big Mike CD 191 Peugeot 3008

A Peugeot 3008 was one of two recent distress purchases made by customers of Big Mike

Put simply, who on earth manages to crash a modern car, and how?

I was on my way home down the A38 the other day when I saw a nearly-new Hyundai being winched out of a crash barrier on a stretch of road where a loss of control seemed nigh-on impossible.

The road there is dead straight, there were no other vehicles involved and yet, somehow, the bewildered-looking driver was standing next to the wreckage of her £35,000 car yabbering into her mobile phone (which, I hypothesise, may have played a part in the incident to start with).

Every time I drive a car newer than 10 years old, which I admit is an increasingly rare occurrence because they seem to be valued like gold bullion these days, I find the number of driver aids on board bewildering.

I used to get baffled by features such as automatic headlights and windscreen wipers, as I’m intelligent enough to know when it’s getting dark or when it starts raining.

Now we have cars that put on their own brakes if you happen to forget, or which vibrate the steering wheel and bing and bong if you venture out of your lane.

Brakes are so good that you only have to think about slowing down before you’re chewing the top of your steering wheel.

And if you do engage idiot mode on the approach to a roundabout, what normally happens is the traction control, ESP and every other piece of automated nonsense you can think of kicks in and the car carries along on its merry way as if nothing dramatic had ever happened.

A Ford Focus distress purchase was made by a man waiting for his insurance pay-out after an unfortunate incident involving the family Qashqai

It’s almost as if you need to crash your car on purpose to unlock such an achievement, and as such I find it most bizarre that people still manage to do it.

Don’t get me wrong – it’s good for business, and I appreciate that not all accidents are the driver’s fault, but my insurance went up this year and the reason I was given for that was that there had been an increase in claims.

How? Just how?

I can only conclude that we’re going backwards as a species, and as my accompanied test drive with the lady who bought my Peugeot 3008 proved to me, there’s validity to my theory.

Indeed, going backwards was a skill she clearly wasn’t very proficient at herself, and I now have a scuffed bumper on a Corsa sales car to sort out, but I decided not to force the issue as she agreed to buy the Peugeot pretty much out of embarrassment.

Meantime, there’s a chap a few doors down from me who’s in full-on buying mode at the moment, purchasing these individuals’ write-offs from salvage auctions and selling them all as repaired Cat S and N models that are cheaper than ones that haven’t been crashed yet.

And after what I’ve witnessed in and around Birmingham over the past three or four weeks, it’s surely only a matter of time before they are…

Meanwhile, I’ve a good selection of inexpensive, mundane motors to shift before we get back into the fun season, so if you do know anyone who’s come unstuck and needs to get themselves back on the road, feel free to send them my way.

Pictured at top: Manufacturers such as Volvo spend vast amounts of money on safety systems, as well as recreating and instigating crashes, so why do people still have accidents, wonders Big Mike

This column appears in the current edition of Car Dealer – issue 191 – along with news, views, reviews, features and much more! 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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