My BMW Z3 and road test Porsche
I once stood with Peter W Schutz, the American chief executive of Porsche AG, as he waxed eloquent over the quality and longevity of his cars. “You know what,” he said to me. “Every time I see a Porsche leave the factory I know not only have we sold a car, but also we will go on selling it spares for years.” True. The factory had a bodyshell in primer parked outside in all weathers and it never decayed. Maybe it’s still there. They had to sell bits for crashed Porsches, worn-out Porsches and in due course restored classic Porsches as the cherished things lasted for decades.
Porsche sold spares at premium prices. It sold everything at premium prices. Schutz, who replaced Dr Ernst Fuhrmann as CEO in the 1980s, knew that replacement components’ business was a bankable asset. Why, a Porsche headlamp glass could cost £100 when everybody else’s were a couple of quid. Now high-power flush-fitting Halogen units are £400 and upgrades to Xenon or Litronic levelling ones are £800.
Ford Focus headlight features on new Dove book, out March
Now everybody has caught on. Headlights are much superior to those of only a few years ago. I notice it going from a newer test car to my BMW or Nissan. Those that swivel with the steering are especially clever. How like cranky American politicians to ban them on Citroëns.
The cost of headlights has gone up and up on ordinary cars well below Porsche in the price pecking order. Audis run from £270 for an A3 to £390 on an A6. But are the distinctive LED running lights strictly necessary? They seem to me more like advertising gimmicks to identify drivers of upper-class cars.
Nothing’s new. Our family Wolseleys had a little light-up badge in the middle of the radiator proclaiming our social status after dark. You didn’t want to be confused with Austins, Morrises or Vauxhalls. As a small boy I was proud of that little light and cross with father when he refused to replace its single festoon bulb. Like festoon bulbs in Trafficators it failed. Father didn’t understand status.