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The fact is that the service is operated by a company called Motor Solutions on behalf of Virgin, who merely lend their name to a growing number of websites operated by the same company (they also operate under the name of ‘Showroom.co.uk’ and Showroom 4 Cars’ and, I’m sure, many others). You can tell if there’s a strong chance that it’s a Motor Solutions website by the address (it will be a Barnsley address – S75 postcode and probably using PO Box number 378, as do both Virgin and the companies mentioned above). If you email an enquiry to them the response will usually be a fairly poorly laid out email, which is partially automated/standard and includes the lines “I am delighted to provide the details of your quotation, I hope it meets and exceeds your requirements. I am certainly confident you will not be able to find a better quotation elsewhere.”
Do your homework well. The price they show as the RRP is not necessarily true; although in the case of Rover prices they recently corrected them (they were overstating RRP's by over £1000 in some cases, thereby showing false savings figures) – and have now withdrawn Rover from their lists altogether. The figures they show now are still overstated for most if not all cars as they show the RRP after Road Tax and Registration fees, whereas their price is before Road Tax, Registration fees and admin fees (say about £250).
They may well be showing the wrong spec for the car. The spec you get is the spec that is currently offered by the manufacturer – not that shown by Virgin (or rather Motor Solutions). In my case, the spec they showed was way out of date when leather was standard on a Rover 75 Connoisseur, the car I got did not have leather as it is no longer standard fit by Rover. Again, do your homework, do your sums and then decide whether the saving is worth the sheer hassle.
One final point before I tell you my story, remember that Motor Solutions want money up front and others will tell you how hard it is to get it back if it all goes pear shaped. Some others don’t demand this. Look at all the other sites before deciding (Autobytel, Jamjar, Cheapestukcars etc. etc.) Be prepared to spend several hours comparing them all, as well as checking on manufacturer’s websites or with dealers just what the specs actually are. Check the prices, any hidden charges and requirements in terms of deposits etc. If you are having it delivered, check on the exact conditions of that and the price as it will be an extra. If you are collecting it (as I did), check where you will be collecting it from – train fares are expensive.
In my case, I ordered a Rover 75 Connoisseur as a retirement present for myself. They were fine at the time and took the order. I had a P/X that was over 6 years old. They offered a ridiculously low price for that and offered a further £300 reduction on the price of the new car which I accepted. A local dealer offered my £300 more for my old car as soon as he heard about it! In the end, I sold the PX privately and paid them the money alternative, saving myself another £500 in the process. At the time I ordered, delivery was estimated to be 8 weeks (extraordinarily long for a pre-registered vehicle in my view). Within a week I was contacted and told that the vehicle was sourced and a supplier found, so the date was confirmed. Great I thought. Each week they phoned me and said it was all going according to plan. I went to Spain for my hols and on my return found a message left on my mobile telling me that the colour I had chosen (White Gold) was about to be discontinued and replaced with Platinum Gold and would I like to accept the new colour instead. Alarm bells began to rang as if the car was sourced, there was a supplier and there were no problems, then why a change of colour at this late stage. I was due to be collecting the car one week later, so I called them back on the Saturday and asked what was going on. I was told there was no problem and that I could stick with White Gold if I wanted – I said I would as I wanted no delays. I went on the Rover website and found that White Gold was still the colour anyway – and still is for the 75 at the time of writing this !!
On the following Tuesday (before I was due to collect on the Saturday), I called them again (you get used to the fact that towards the end of the waiting time the phone calls to you dry up - be prepared for some long waits in a queue whilst on their 0870 number…). Sorry said the guy; a note has just been added to your file saying that there will be a further 4 week delay…….
I refused to accept that and went over the history several times. Eventually because of my doggedness; I was passed to someone else and eventually, after a couple of days, was offered a choice of cars that were available. Would you believe it, one of them was a Connoisseur in White Gold…. It did have some extras attached to it not ordered by me and at the same time it became clear that the specification was not what was offered originally by Virgin (no leather seats, no electric seats, and no heated seats). In the end they offered it to me at cost (or so they said) with a further payment required of £290 to offset the cost of the extras. I collected the car a couple of weeks later (two weeks later than was first envisaged). During that time I had let my old car go because of the ‘Virgin promise’ and had to hire cars as and when.
One of the reviews for Virgin Cars (see orsi22 – Never Again) asks at the end “I wonder if Sir Branson knows”. I kept a diary of events (available to anyone who wants it emailed to them) and sent this on Wednesday 1st September, along with a long letter, to Sir Richard at Virgin Management Ltd, copied to his home address. I also sent this as an email attachment to the Group Legal Director (Helena Samaha) at Virgin Management Ltd. To this day I have never received any reply to any of those. Not even an acknowledgement. I suggest that they do know – and condone it.
The cars are what you can buy elsewhere. The prices are great, but can be matched elsewhere, especially if you look carefully at ‘hidden’ costs and charges, with some others not wanting money up front in the way Virgin do. The customer service is actually reasonable if you can get past the barrier and get someone by name. The fact is that they make promises they can’t keep, offer specifications that are no longer available and don’t have sales staff that know what the hell they are talking about. Even after I had concluded there were no longer leather seats as standard, I emailed an enquiry to one of the other motor solutions websites (not Virgin – but it could easily have been). In a direct email which I still have I was told (and I quote) “PLEASE FIND QUOTATION AS REQUESTED FULLY ON THE ROAD. THE CONNOISSEUR COMES WITH LEATHER SEATS AS STANDARD. FOR ANY MORE ASSISTANCE PLEASE CONTACT …...”.
Incidentally, Virgin also offer after sales care in the shape of the ‘Virgin Plus’ card which arrives after you get your car. This gives you membership of a ‘club’ and you phone Virgin Cars with your membership number etc whenever you need service or parts (tyres, exhausts etc). They promise to get you a good price, well below what you would pay yourself. The card clearly says on it “This vehicle is managed by Motor Solutions” so Virgin Plus is really Motor Solutions Plus. I phoned them with what I thought was a problem and was told to go to a local dealer………..
The total cost paid by me is still well below list and I ended up saving some £4,800, which is a great deal. The car is good (albeit with a couple of very minor niggles which a local dealer is sorting for me – normal for a new car in my experience).
You pay your money and you take your pick – but shop around, do lots of sums and take no notice of the brand name which apparently means absolutely nothing.
Good review, I will advoiding imporing a car with tehse guys.... thanks for the headsup with your experience.
long-wait 22.02.2005 16:15
I ordered a car from Makro Motoring, who also use Motor Solutions to supply, in April 2004 and was told 11 weeks. I am still waiting 44 weeks later!! Had lots of estimated dates. They ordered the wrong car first and had to re-order after I drove 250miles to Sheffield to collect what I told them was the wrong car!! I had paid in full by then but they gave all my money back (except the 10% deposit) with interest & no problem.
Their switchboard is more secure than the old Berlin Wall at the hight of the Cold War. They keep quoting the same words like "we'll call you when the cars in" - but NEVER call me. Their switchboard operators know nothing more than what's on their screen and are not allowed to talk to their supply team (or so they say)
They can't even say where the car is as their supplier is always trying to find out. I've now done 11,000 miles in my old car and still have no actually del date.
The only good thing about Motor Solutions is their price - it is VERY good. But the wait could make a grown man cry.............