I’m going to tell you a story, but if anyone asks it wasn’t Big Mike you got it from…
Much has been made in the past few months of the government-backed scrappage scheme, and its effect on both the new and used car markets. So much so that, like me, you’re probably sick to death of hearing about it.
So Big Mike makes you a promise – this is the last time I’ll mention it. For now, at least.
I’ve been around this industry long enough to know that even when you think you’ve seen it all, you haven’t. And this latest scam, floating around the lower reaches of the used car market, is a real eye-opener, even to a seasoned professional like me.
See, one of the downsides of the scrappage scheme, at least to someone like me, who specialises in pre-owned, but not nearly new stuff, is that the supply of good, clean older cars has generally dried up.
That’s because your average scrappage customer with their immaculate old Rover, Volvo or Nissan Micra is the kind of person from whom, via the part-ex auctions, a trader like me would previously have sourced lovely old one-owner cars.
Most of these, older than T-reg, have now gone; and that leaves us with a real shortage on our hands. While the older cars that have survived are generally the scruffy third or fourth-hand examples as seen doing burnouts on a council estate near you…
But it may not wholly be thus; and here’s why. A short while ago, I was down at one of my local breakers yards picking up a front wing for a car I had on my lot (if there’s one benefit to the older stock trader of the scrappage scheme, it’s that there’s a huge oversupply of decent used parts at the moment, making prices cheap, as I mentioned last month).
Ear, as ever, firmly to the ground, I inspected a P-registered Vauxhall Astra Mk3 that had recently arrived. It had just 22,000 miles on the clock and was in lovely condition, despite being such an unremarkable car. It was, of course, a scrappage scheme special, it’s place alongside the owner’s neatly tendered bungalow lawn no doubt now filled by a Korean shopping car.
But I’m confident that this car, most probably like a few others, will live on. For while all scrappage cars have to have a Certificate of Destruction issued, there’s no law that states they can’t be sold, complete, to somebody who wishes to own them as a source of spares.
As I needed a few little bits and pieces for my son’s Astra, I asked the yard owner if I could take a few bits of this example – but was told no. It had already been sold, along with another rusty and dishevelled looking P-plate Astra that had come in a day later with an expired MoT; both to the same disreputable local trader of whom I have prior reason to distrust.
It wasn’t a surprise, therefore, to see a 22,000-mile Astra resplendent on his forecourt a few days later, wearing the ID of a nasty old rotten car that I had seen on the back of the scrapper’s lorry just a few days earlier. He’d either restored it to the same standard as the scrappage car, right down to details such as the tartan cushions and safari park sticker in the back window in just over a week, or something a little more sinister had gone on… As I value my knee caps, and there’s an outside chance he could be reading this, I couldn’t possibly suggest what, so let’s just say he’d got a bit confused with his paperwork.
So I guess the real question is, which is the more unethical practice? To remove a car from the scrappage programme and discreetly bring it back to life under an assumed identity, or to throw away an immaculate and perfectly serviceable vehicle in the first place? After all, whichever way, it’s all about profit…