What you should know about your car
It has been reported that the police and sundry insurance investigators are using data stored on car keys as part of their ongoing investigations.
This may not be news to some of you but I’m willing to bet that a majority of the population were unaware of how much information can be gleaned from a car key and manufacturers are not keen to advertise the fact. Smart ignition keys store details on a memory chip about the overall mileage of the car and how far it travelled on its last journey. Using a reader, dealers can extract this information and it can be used by the authorities or insurers to combat insurance fraud and, in some circumstances, accidents. Manufacturers have quietly and increasingly been using this technology and it has certainly been on some Renault and BMW vehicles for at least ten years! This sort of thing is all well and good but, and you can call me a cynic, how long before this information is used against you, say, in an otherwise perfectly innocent warranty claim? Perhaps your dealer can enlighten you.
And talking of warranties, I’m pretty sure you are under the impression that, should anything go awry with your protected car, you will simply take it back to be fixed. Well, it seems, not if you are a Toyota owner. Whistleblowers – or should it be hornblowers in this case? – have revealed that not all is as it appears at the world’s largest car manufacturer. It seems that in secret memos, Toyota has instructed its network to turn a blind eye to non-dangerous minor faults that may be discovered during routine work that, crucially, the customer hasn’t reported or been aware of. The faults could only be revealed to the customer when the warranty has expired so they appear innocuously on the bill! This knowledge is not shown in warranty manuals and now even hard-nosed dealers and technicians have started making a noise about this seemingly unethical practice. To be balanced, Toyota strenuously refute this, although evidence allegedly exists, and state that their warranty sets a benchmark in the industry.
There is some potentially good news. A summit, no less, of cabinet ministers are to discuss ways to cut car insurance premiums by cutting dramatically the number of whiplash claims, currently running at about 1500 a day! This is almost entirely due to the antics of ambulance chasers and fraud monkeys. Our cars have never been safer; they are better built and much, much harder to steal than ever before so it’s about time that premiums reflected that. Let’s just hope that this summit actually produces the goods for once and won’t be just another lot of hot air.
Geoff Maxted is a freelance writer and photographer