Notes from West London

They really can’t get the parts

I drive a French car. I have always driven French cars. So did my mother. Back in the 1970s, before I was old enough to drive, she bought her first car from the long-gone Fred Guy garage in King Street Hammersmith. It was a two-year-old Renault 6, which was replaced by a new Renault 6 two years later. Three years after that she bought a Renault 12 estate which lasted for 8 years, and then traded it in for a Renault 5 which lasted for a further 9 years. Like many men of my age and background, I can remember all the registration numbers, but I won’t trouble you with them here.

My brother passed his driving test in that Renault 12, and I passed mine in 1987 in that Renault 5. In the 1990s my mother bought a brand-new Peugeot 306, and I inherited it when she died in 1997, the first vehicle to be registered in my name. I kept it, for sentimental reasons, and at great expense, for a further 10 years. Just before I let it go, I was paying the insurance and running costs for three Peugeots (a 307SW and my wife’s 205 in addition to the 306). All of this multiple-car responsibility came to an end in 2008. Someone had driven into the back of the 205 and written it off, and we bought a replacement 307SW, with toddler seats to make it a 7-seater if required. Thirteen years later, we still have it, although we are unlikely to need the toddler seats again. Neither of our teenage children could fit in them.

We still own that 08-reg 307, but we don’t have it right now. It has been in the garage for over a week. On the Monday of last week, a warning light came on. My wife was able to drive it for another day and booked it into the garage for Wednesday morning. As usual, they were unable to do the required work on the day. They sent us a “Vehicle Health Check” email, but I needed to speak to the Service department for more detailed explanations, to ask “How much?” a few times, and to give the go-ahead for the work to start. They would order the parts and expected the car to be ready the next day (Thursday).

It wasn’t. They couldn’t get the parts. We’re talking about a Peugeot garage, showroom and parts supplier that couldn’t supply itself with the parts it needed for the car I had bought from them. I hadn’t asked about a replacement vehicle, for a number of reasons: the work was booked in at short notice, and we could get by without one for a day or two. Also, the last time I booked a service and insisted on a replacement vehicle I had to give them four weeks’ notice. By 4pm on Thursday I hadn’t heard from them and called for an update, which is when I learnt that the parts hadn’t arrived. I asked about a replacement car but there was nothing available. It was the same story on Friday regarding the parts (they still hadn’t arrived) but I was able to pick up a replacement that evening, a Citroen C3. I had never driven any type of Citroen before, and I hadn’t experienced that “new car” smell for many years.

Earlier today, exactly seven days after picking up the C3, and having heard nothing from the garage in all that time, I called for an update. Same as last week. They’re still waiting for the parts. We will continue to have the use of the Citroen with its “new car” smell. I wonder if it will smell like a regular car by the time we get our own one back.

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