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Government proposal to have NCT checks catch clocked cars is a joke

Though published on April 1st by Fiach Kelly in the Irish Independent, his story under the headline “NCT check will uncover ‘clocked’ cars in new plan” doesn’t appear to be an April Fool. I do think, however, that the proposals from the Minister for Transport, Leo Varadkar, will be about as useful as an April Fool prank.

According to Mr. Kelly, the Irish Independent has learned that 10% of cars checked by the NCTS have been clocked, and that the Department of Transport has helpfully “suggested there is a problem”. This means that their response will be that:

Under new plans, cars will have their mileage cross-referenced with their NCT history every time they go in for the test.

The aim is to have the system rolled out within around two years, and motorists would be able to check mileage history.

Effectively, they will check your mileage each time you send your car for its NCT, and if the mileage is less than the previous NCT check, you – the car owner – will be prosecuted. According to the article:

And it would become a crime to have your car clocked. At the moment, it is a crime only to sell a clocked car.

Bear with me here, but I don’t think that these proposals are going to have much effect at all. And worse, they have the potential of penalising consumers a whole lot more than garages who clock cars who may actually do the car clocking.

Won’t work in all instances (1)

Let’s take an example car, owned by Joe Bloggs, a travelling salesman, who does 100k miles every year selling widgets to €1 stores. Joe has the car for 2 ½ years and has put up 275k hard miles on the car. He trades it in for the newest model, and the car is taken in and tidied up by the dealer.

“Tidied up” just so happens to involved rolling back the mileage to somewhat more than the average annual mileage for a car in Ireland – 60k miles (2.5 times 10,837, plus change for good measure). That’s still a damn site less than the actual mileage, and something that the NCT won’t catch after the car was bought by Mick Smith, driven only 5k miles for 6 months, and subjected to the first NCT.

Won’t work in all instances (2)

If you're reading this, you're probably on a PC with internet filtering, or a poor connections, so you're missing a picture of the odometer in a carLet’s assume instead that Mike Smith buys the car first. He owns it for 3 ½ years, and does his usual circa 5k miles per year, and decides to upgrade after successfully passing the first NCT on the car. The car is sold with 20k miles on the clock to Joe Bloggs who drives the wheels off the thing for 2 more years, putting up his circa 100k average each year before deciding to upgrade the car before the next NCT is due after 6 years.

Now, the car has circa 220k on the clock, is 5 ½ years old, and in “tidying up” the car, the less than scrupulous garage owner decides that he could only ever sell the car and make money on it if there’s less than 100k miles on the clock, needing to wipe off over 120k miles.

And like magic, Mary Murphy who bought the car next, submits it innocently for NCT, and successfully passes the test with flying colours. There’s 95k miles on the clock, there was 20k on the clock at the last NCT, and no one is any the wiser.

Useless NCA must change approach too

Let’s now say that the car hadn’t passed the NCT, and Mary Murphy is told that the car she bought had been clocked. She’s now in possession of a clocked car, for which she’ll be liable for prosecution. By whom, we don’t know yet.

And for selling the car, the unscrupulous garage is also liable for prosecution. By the National Consumer Agency. Who rarely prosecute garages who clock cars, merely settling on “working with them” to make sure they don’t do it anymore.

So, there we have it. Yet another scenario in the making where big business, or any business for that matter, in Ireland will get away with anything, while it’s we, the ordinary punters, who always end up paying the price.


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