This past weekend I was supposed to be picking up a new (well, low-mileage used) car from Citroen’s Slough dealership. The one directly attached to Citroen’s UK headquarters in Slough. As you’ve probably already guessed, things didn’t go to plan and I am about to deliver the most deserved naming-and-shaming ever.
After a rocky start, I’ve had the best part of five hassle-free, but expensive, years’ service from my trusty and beloved Rover 75. Unfortunately, as much as I want to keep the 75 until it’s old, rusty and the doors fall off, its low mpg (24 on a good day with the wind behind you) and my 70 miles-a-day commute mean that it’s just not a financially viable car to keep using seven days a week. I’m pouring around £350-£400 a month into the petrol tank, and that’s a big expense. The car was bought in a different time, when I commuted to work on the Tube and only really drove at weekends. In that scenario, owning a V6 gas guzzler was a manageable and enjoyable luxury expense. Sadly, it’s now a much larger dent in my pocket that I can no longer sustain.
Having looked around a fair few car marques including Skoda, Kia, Nissan, Fiat, Peugeot, MG and Ford, I settled on a Citroen C4. I found a viable example of the car, a Citroen Approved Used 2008 (57 plate) 1.6 HDi (Diesel) VTR+ in Puss Beige (Sahara Gold) with Citroen’s EGS semi-automatic gearbox. Fortunately, I’m not fussy about car colour at all. The car can allegedly achieve 62mpg (manufacturers claimed combined fuel consumption) and had a nice array of toys on it including cruise control, speed limiter, stability control, trip computer and a boot that you could comfortably stuff a dead body into without folding the rear seats down. You never know when this might come in handy!
Having viewed the car at Citroen’s Slough dealership (remember, this is the one directly attached to Citroen’s UK headquarters in Slough) on July 30th, we proceeded with an agreement to buy the car (on finance) on agreement that certain remedial work be carried out on the car prior to handover. These items included:
- Repairing a large paint scuff and dent on the passenger side rear wing wheel arch
- Repairing a large paint scuff on the passenger side front bumper
- Investigate and mend faulty electric mirror control on driver door window control panel
- Replace or skim warped brake disc on drivers’ side rear wheel
I was assured this would all be done, and we shook on the deal (and I paid a £250 deposit). We agreed for the handover of their car (and my part exchange car) to take place on the morning of August 20th – giving them a full three weeks to complete all the works on the car to a high standard, including completing the bodywork repairs to Citroen paintwork and corrosion warranty standard.
We arrived at the dealership (Citroen Slough – the one directly attached to Citroen’s UK headquarters in Slough) at 9am on August 20th as agreed, only to find no sign initially of the sales rep. He showed up about five minutes later as we were fetching coffee from their machine – all fair enough so far. Whilst he was very keen to get me to sign a myriad of paperwork (as well as get another £750 out of me – the rest of the cash I was down paying on the car – which I stupidly paid up straight away, albeit on a credit card so have some protection), I was more concerned with inspecting the car before I made the sale final.
Having been asked to sign a checklist confirming that everything was in order, I downed my pen until I could inspect the car, and produced my own five page check-list of things based on information and advice from the Citroen C4 Owners Club forum.
Reluctantly, the sales rep led me out to where the car was waiting in their collection area.
The first thing I inspected was the bodywork repairs – which were a joke! The rear wing repair was pathetic; with no effort made to restore the wheel arch crease and curve (it now has a completely flat patch in the middle of the arch. There were also clearly visible dents still around the centre of the damage as well as paintwork scratches.
The front bumper scrape looked like it had been T-Cut polished as part of a wash and wax, and nothing else. They again only did the middle of the scrape, leaving the ends of the scrape untouched and a large deep scratch above it untouched and dirty. They also managed to create fresh damage in the form of scraping the passenger-side body-coloured bumper insert so deep it’s down to the underlying plastic. Looking at the damage, it would appear that either someone reversed into the car, or the car has hit a bollard or roof support in a car park.
There is also paint damage in the passenger side front wheel arch lip (down to the bare metal, but easy to touch up to seal it. After these botched bodywork repairs, they then had the cheek to apply the £299 GardX protection I paid for – an utterly pointless exercise on such bad bodywork that, thanks to the shoddy work (and no work in the case of the front bumper) does not conform to Citroen paintwork and corrosion warranty standard
Next, I checked the boot wiring loom rubber sheath. The wiring loom in the boot is subject to a recall at present, as the loom has been fitted too short/too tight on a significant number of cars, causing it to rub on the bodywork, breaking the cables and causing the electric boot lock to fail (there is no key override). When that happens, you can’t open the boot.
The wiring loom rubber sheath where the wires exit the main car and enter the boot lid looks a bit manky where it joins the boot lid itself, suggesting it is going to be susceptible to water ingress in the future, if not already. The dealership insists this particular car is not subject to the boot wiring loom recall. However, I expect this to be an area for future problems, if not from broken cables then from water ingress based on the malformed and ill-fitting wiring sheath.
The car was advertised and sold as having a full dealer service history. However, on finally seeing the service log book it was completely blank! It turns out there were no manuals with the car, so they put an old spare set in (and incomplete at that, just the main user manual and log book, no getting started guide, no RD4 car stereo manual). After much arguing, a single A4 laser printed page (that looked like it had just been knocked up in a hurry in Microsoft Word) was produced, claiming to detail the full service history from a Citroen dealership in Wrexham where the car was first registered and allegedly maintained. Suffice to say this was not convincing. It also has no value as nobody will accept the piece of paper as a legitimate service history and proof of accumulative mileage.
Furthermore, I asked for proof of what work had been carried out on the car by Citroen Slough. A printout was produced that revealed they replaced 2 wiper blades, had a new remote control key produced and they claim to have replaced the Air Doseur (which is known to leak oil on a C4, dripping into the Alternator which is directly underneath it). On inspection there was an oil stain on top of the Alternator. However, the Air Doseur does not look new at all, and had dirt and other muck on the two rubber pipes, suggesting it’s been in place and undisturbed for quite a while.
No evidence of addressing the brake disc issue or the dodgy electric mirrors control on the driver’s door panel. Also no recent service (allegedly the mystery Wrexham dealership did it in November last year) – the oil was as black as tarmac and Citroen Slough failed to even do a basic courtesy oil and filter change, instead sticking me with a £200 service bill almost immediately in order to make the car safe and reliable to drive.
On further inspection, I noted that the faux carbon fibre trim surrounding the gearstick was extremely loose and had acquired several scrapes and indents in it, which I am confident were not there when I first inspected and test drove the car.
The car also only had a 10-month MOT, not the full 12 month I was expecting and as would be normal with any other manufacturer-approved used car of MOT age.
I also discovered the two front tyres are two different makes. Both rears are factory Michelins, but the driver’s front is a Goodyear, and the Passenger front is a Pirelli! Both have completely different tread patterns and the wear is uneven. I consider this to be extremely dangerous, a view that has been backed up by both the RAC and by Michelin, Citroen’s recommended tyre supplier. Replacing the tyres will cost in excess of £300 if I have to do it.
Odd tyres and a mixture of tread patterns on the front will significantly compromise handling and grip, as well as overworking the stability control and ABS as it tries to compensate.
The end result is I refused to take possession of the car. I scooped up the V5 for my Rover, along with its manual and service history and the keys and walked out. They still have my £1,000 and I’ve stupidly allowed them a window to make good the car when I should have reclaimed all my money and never set foot back in there. However, having received expert advice, I am no longer prepared to accept the car in its current form at the agreed price.
The simple fact of the matter is I’ve had to endure significant aggravation, cost, lost time and, quite frankly, was left quite upset at the disgusting way I was treated on Saturday. This included the sales rep I was dealing with went and grabbed a decidedly yobbish and extremely aggressive colleague (who’s presence was never explained or justified) to try and intimidate us into taking the car as was without complaint (which didn’t work). The problems, the botched remedial work, the additional damage to the car caused by the dealership, the odd tyres, the damaged and loose trim panel around the gearstick – it all damages the resale value of the car, my confidence in the car, my confidence in the dealership and its ability carry out any of the work properly, and my confidence in Citroen full stop.
I highly expect my next visit will reveal the car still has not been prepared as agreed and I will be rejecting it for good and claiming a full refund of the £1,000 I’ve paid so far as a deposit.
Full Disclosure: Following several attempts to complain via Twitter to Citroen UK, I received a very polite and constructive call from their PR department. They in turn escalated my complaint to an extremely confrontational, rude and argumentative person at the Citroen Slough dealership (a real let-down as I was hoping for progress on this). The individual who called displayed little interest in rectifying anything other than begrudgingly addressing the bodywork and getting the original dealer that allegedly maintained the car to reissue and stamp a service history booklet. He demonstrated no interest in delivering good customer care, rebuilding trust or making good the obviously poor performance and attitude displayed by the staff at the dealership and the overall sub-standard state of the car.
On the basis of this so far, I would have to say avoid buying a Citroen car from a Citroen main dealer, and in particular avoid Citroen Slough at all costs!