There’s been some buzz in the news about a man in the UK who recently discovered that the second hand F80 M3 he purchased was abused by Jeremy Clarkson during a round of filming on the Top Gear TV series http://bambawefushia.com/elite-singles-no/. Naturally, this explained the range of problems that he had with the car, given the tough conditions Jezza put the car through – although it’s not necessarily a problem with all press cars.
It’s true that most press cars go through hell during the first few thousand kilometres of use. Tyres and brake pads are changed numerous times through the year as they are worn down at a ridiculous rate – the Toyota GT86 press car was abused so much that it went through 4 sets of tyres in a year. Arguably some of the more performance oriented cars are meant to be driven “hard”, but there is something to be said for mechanical sympathy and a bit of mutual understanding. Personally, I don’t see the point in putting a car through the extremely abusive launch control process, or shredding the tyres until there’s no tread left.
In many cases (at least in Malaysia), press cars go through a complete service and refresh before they are sold on at the end of their usage period. This usually means that if you were to purchase a former press car, it would have been checked and maintained to ensure that it’s no different from a regular second-hand car- but there are some occasions where even the best scrutiny cannot fix an issue.
While a dealer cannot do much to make up for the inconvenience a customer is put through because of a faulty car, they should at the very least honor a swap or a buy-back policy if the car is irreparable. On the whole, it’s not advisable to buy a former press car or demonstration unit if you can avoid it (at least not for performance cars, as they’ve likely spent time on track), although there is also a higher likelihood of the car being maintained properly during it’s testing phase. You need to do your due diligence and really, properly look into the car’s provenance.
Truth be told, one of our former fleet cars, the #r3PGTI also previously belonged to Volkswagen Group Malaysia, and was one of the earliest cars to arrive in Malaysia. It was part of the fleet which was brought out to Sepang and punished on track by journalists, dealers and potential customers alike. Won purchased the car a little over a year later, and has never faced any major issues – not clutch, gearbox, mechatronic, or otherwise.