At the start of the year we were told that, as managers who were receiving a car allowance, the bank was choosing to change the policy and instead get us to take company cars which are cheaper for the bank. It gave a time frame of a year for this to be changed.
I wasn’t overly happy. I had a decent car of my own on hire, a VW Touran, which was a seven seater and ideal when you have four kids. The lease came to an end in March, and so I told Head Office, who in turn ordered a new car for me. I can’t remember what it was, though it was a five seater that essentially cost me more every month due to the fact that my car allowance more than covered the cost of the Touran, meaning I had money left over every month.
The new car was on 12 week lead time, and so in the meantime I got a hire car. A Kia Ceed to be precise. With a 1.6 engine it was less powerful than I was used to, and I found that the back seats can only take three car seats for the kids at an extreme push, so it’s not a great car for me.
I figured that I could stick it out until June when the new car was due to be delivered though, so sat and waited.
At the start of June the announcement was made that the bank would be making redundant four in every five staff, and that we were being put on 90 days garden leave. Furthermore, all new car orders were cancelled.
Thinking that I’d be leaving, I decided to stick with the Kia rather than ask for anything different.
September rolls around, and on day 89 of my garden leave I am offered a role in our Gants Hill branch, covering field calls in Chelmsford and Colchester (and later on, Ipswich too). The car, by this stage, had done 12,000 miles - 600 short of it’s allowance as indicated by the sticker declaring “this car must be returned before it has done 12,600 miles or a penalty will be due”.
I called the hire company to tell them, and was told not to worry, they weren’t taking cars back so quickly as the credit crunch had meant less cars had been ordered and that I should keep it for a couple of weeks until they had a new car.
About six weeks later they called me to arrange a car swap, and booked me in to go down to their depot a few days later. The morning of the appointment they called and cancelled, saying they didn’t have a spare car.
The car has now done 19,000 miles, and on Monday they left a message asking me to call them and arrange for the car to be changed. Yesterday, before I’d called them, the car starting acting strangely. The acceleration would cut out, no matter the speed or gear I was in at about 2,500 revs. I parked up, went for lunch, came back an hour later and it was working fine. Strange.
There were no more problems yesterday, but no sooner had I done thirty miles this morning, it started playing up again. On the M11, about ten miles later, it wouldn’t accelerate at all.
I pulled onto the hard shoulder, came to a standstill and tried first gear. The gears slipped in and out without a problem, but the car wouldn’t move an inch when I tried to find the biting point. I turned the engine off, restarted it and it was fine.
I set off again, but again the revs were restricted. An hour later, after a couple of scheduled stops for work, I started the car and the engine light came on. As it’s a hire car there is no manual in the glove box, though history tells me that the engine light is a bad light to have illuminated.
I called the hire car company, and was told, after being passed to the nearest branch in Harlow, that they’d call me back. That was an hour ago. It’s going to be a long day…