Residents of Orkney have had a tough time making a major car manufacturer stick to its word.
On the understanding that their cars would be serviced locally, a clutch of Renault Zoes were bought by the island’s residents in 2013 from Orkney’s only Renault dealership. The residents were happy with their purchases – particularly considering the generous servicing package, which would be free for the first four years and include roadside assistance and a four year warranty. The servicing even included a collection and delivery service for their cars so they wouldn’t need to drive to the garage themselves and they could use a courtesy car while the work was being done.
The customers say they were assured by car salesmen that their cars would be serviced locally on Orkney. It was important because their electric cars do not have the range to make it from Orkney to Inverness on a single charge. To benefit from the free servicing and warranty they would have to use a Renault Dealership. If they didn’t, they’d have to pay for servicing themselves and their warranty may be rendered invalid.
Within months of the car purchases, the Renault dealership on Orkney became a Vauxhall dealership instead. Now the car owners faced a troublesome and expensive journey to the nearest Renault dealership in Inverness to benefit from the free service plan and ensure they remained within the terms of their much-vaunted warranty. One of the owners “reluctantly” made the trip and ended up having to be rescued by Renault Roadside Assistance both on the way to Inverness and on the way back when their car ran out of power.
This type of dispute – where one party is put at an impossible disadvantage – is typically settled amicably, without the need for legal assistance. However Renault has been unflinching in its position – folding its corporate arms in defiance and conceding only that the cars will remain within warranty if they’re serviced at an independent garage on Orkney, so long as genuine Renault parts are used and paid for by the car owners themselves.
It costs very little to service an electric car since there’s no oil to change, filters to replace, etc., so it’s unlikely to cost Renault very much to make amends with these customers and go some way to repair the bad PR that comes with alienating a customer base.
I recently spoke on Radio 4 on this subject, and would hope that some gentle application of public pressure on one of the world’s most recognisable brands will bring about a reconsideration of their opinion and a rational compromise with their customers on Orkney.