Friday 3 November 2023

Car capers

Car capers

We have three cars, mine, hers and a spare car. Recently, she was saying that something that she didn't like abut hers was the delay before acceleration kicked in. That's the turboharger. All cars seem to have them now, I suppose it's cheaper than a big engine. But electric cars have maximum torque at start-up.

So we did some research. One of the things she wanted, was a car that isn't wide, and so easier to park. And a sun roof, and a reversing camera and other stuff ...

We chose the Fiat 500e. 200 miles range, all the features we want, and quite narrow and small. Three doors, but I measured the doors and they don't need extra space to open.

So we went to Palmers at Hemel, and we chose "Ocean Green" and they said we could have it in a couple of weeks.

We went back on November 1st, and the car was ready. The sales guy showed us how thing worked, and we drove away in it, leaving the trade-in car behind.

We stopped off at a KFC for lunch, then drove home, and I parked the car.

Next day, I had a local appointment to check my reading glasses. I took the Fiat. As soon as I got into the road, there was a plethora of warning lights. Tyre pressure, airbags and everything else. So I thought, this isn't a real problem, it's the warning system has gone wrong. I wanted to power-cycle the system, like one does for a computer, but I didnt want to stop in the road. The car park where I was headed was only a kilometer way, so I headed there and parked in a parking bay.

And then I pressed the engine on/off button. Nothing happened.

The car was in "Drive" and nothing I could do would get it out of drive. I had to keep my foot firmly on the brake pedal or it would roll forward into the woods next to the car park.

I tried all sorts of ways to get it out of Drive - nothing worked. So eventually I phoned Jason and asked him to get here fast and bring two bricks - I didn't explain why.

We used the bricks to chock the wheels, so that at last I could take my foot off the footbrake.

This was appalling. Can you imagine, you're driving and you're stick in Drive? It's dangerous. The system has failed, and it hasn't failed-safe.

We phoned for the RAC, the man came quickly but couldn't switch off the battery (there doesn't appear to be any sort of kill-switch). Eventually, he pulled fuses until that did the trick, but on putting the fuses back the car was still in drive.

So we called Palmers. There was no-one there on the Fiat room; apparently they're short staffed. Actually, on that day, they were zero-staffed. Eventually, ladysolly managed to talk to someone in accounts, who said we should get a car transporter to take it back to Palmers, so we ordered that.

So then I called Luke at Palmers - he's on the Jeep team, but at least it was someone car-knowing that I could talke to. He asked us to cancel the car transporter and he'd send Stuart with a loaner and the retrieve the car.

Stuart arrived with the loaner and no tools, no torch (it was dark by now) and no clue whatsoever. I suspect that Palmers thought this was a simple case of PEBCAC (problem exists between car and carseat) and that Stuart would imediately know what to do.

Meanwhile, the car park told us that we were violating their conditions by leaving the car in their car park after 6pm. I ignored tht, because there was no way I dould get the car out of their car park. If there's a fine, I'll pas it over to Palmers, since we'd cancelled the transporter at their request.

Next day, I called Palmers. They said that they had a fix, because Fiat had told them about this a while back, but advised them not to apply the (software) fix. So Palmers came out again, this time (I guess) with the fix and took the car away (we'd already given them the keys).

I expressed my dissatisfaction, and asked what they planned to do. They offered me two options. 1) Take back that same car (now, hopefully, fixed) or 2) Have a full refund.

There was no way we would have confidence in Fiat, Palmers or that particular car, so I told them to do the refund.

So we're back to square one, except I've done some more research, and I an get almost the same car (black instead of Ocean Green) and without the reversing camera, for several thousands less, because it was registered by the dealer (Glyn Hopkin) and therefore technically second hand (with ten miles on the clock). We can get a reversing camera for some £500, so we're going to look at that car on Sunday.


  1. Thought I'd heard about similar recently:

  2. Turbos are mostly used to meet emissions requirements. You can get more power out of a smaller engine with a turbo. The trade-off is that the engine is more expensive. It's also more complex, which means more things that could break.

    I would double check that you are getting the full warranty with the second vehicle that you selected. It would be a shame to have a huge issue in a year or two and then find out that the warranty is either already expired or non-existent because you technically purchased the vehicle used. At least in the USA, Fiat is not known for being a high quality brand and I would never buy one. Maybe their quality is a little bit better over there, but if you're first experience is any indication, I'm going to guess not.