Blog: Dave LeggettBuy when debugged

Dave Leggett | 8 November 2007

Every now and then I meet someone who thinks I am in a perfect position to advise them on what car to buy. Even after I have explained that the publication I work on is in the industry and is not another version of Autocar, that we don't do road tests and so on, they still think I must know more than them.

Well, maybe I do and maybe I have my fair share of personal preferences and prejudices when it come to brands and product. There are also things you hear in the industry too, the inside track on what's going on in engineering/manufacturing/procurement/retail, and I wouldn't deny that, but synthesising that into 'that's the car you should go for, not that one' isn't what I'm trained to do.

But there is one bit of advice that I am happy to impart. If you are buying new, it is generally better not to be first in the queue for a model that has just been launched. Go for something that has been around a little while, I say. That way it has been 'debugged'.

Quality varies and manufacturers work hard to get things right from Job One. But the reality is, there's no real substitute for getting the cars in the market for some of the problems in execution or specification to become all too apparent. Some carmakers even, somewhat cynically, view 'customer testing' as simply another part of the process of bringing a car to market (why pay test engineers to endlessly find fault when the customers can do it so much more cost-effectively and focus on what really needs attention?!). And even the best of them working from sound quality principles have their bad experiences. Look at Toyota.

As a consumer, you increase your chances of a problem-free experience the longer down the model cycle you are prepared  to go. But even then, I say, the 'Friday afternoon car' that comes with niggles cannot be totally ruled out either. Just take a look at the readers' letters pages in the motoring mags and newspaper supplements. There are probabilities and risk factors, processes and systems that minimise defects, but you can still be plain unlucky.

Being first to get that hot new model can come with a downside though.

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