Don’t come to our man with a scraped wheel. Not in this climate, warns The Insider

This from a driver, handing back his car: “Sorry, boss. Someone must’ve dinged the alloy.” I knew he’d spotted the flash of anger in my eyes, because he stepped back an inch.

Cowards like that I don’t need right now. There’s a restlessness out there in the car market that bodes badly for fleet managers handing back “dinged” cars to the leasing industry. I’m not saying I don’t entirely trust the company that leased us this particular vehicle, but a scraped alloy is a financial chink that’s easily levered open to punish the likes of me.

They’ve been guilty of that in the past. Young and aggressive, it’s the sort of leasing company whose salesmen win the argument for high residuals over the warnings of cautious accountants. That way they get the business with lower monthly quotes, but run the risk of getting burnt when they sell the cars after three years. Which is when their creative side emerges. If every service centre was as conscientious as their car-checkers, our fleet would be so immaculate we’d hold awards for our auction prices.

But with the new-car market down and a glut of year-old cars appearing with thousands off, you do wonder what’s happening with cars at three years old. The price guides say everything’s okay, but if a dealer’s got a three-year-old Mondeo TDCi up for £6200 and there’s an identical year-old one for £7200 at the supermarket, then the dealer’s going to have to start slashing or pray for consumer idleness.

&#8220If every service centre was as conscientious as their car-checkers, our fleet would be so immaculate we’d hold awards for our auction prices.”

The Insider

Then there’s the news that the Vectra might well change its name. Like most fleets, the old Vauxhall warhorse has its place here too, but any appeal it might have had in the used market could well be snuffed out if the new one’s renamed Insignia. They’re obviously hoping Jeremy Clarkson’s got better things to do these days than rip into an Insignia, and they’re probably right. That would require him to orchestrate a whole new campaign of hate. Meanwhile, the current Vectra slowly dies a death on the used market, lumbered with dodgy indicators and the mantle of ‘the car Clarkson despised’. Name changes do work. As someone in CAP told me the other day, the RVs for the Toyota Carina suddenly shot up when renamed Avensis for its facelift. The Focus did a lot better for not being an Escort, too.

But nothing’s going to change too much round here. The fleet’s already pretty diverse, and if the young and aggressive leasing company starts getting cocky with fictional post-inspection bills, then I’ll get old and aggressive back. Just as much impact, but with more grizzled menace. As for the kid with the alloy “someone must have dinged”, I spent a happy lunchbreak imagining tapping him hard with a kerbstone. “Sorry, someone seems to have dinged your shin.”

The Insider is a fleet manager with years of invaluable experience.