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On The Road: Extra con

By Michael Booth

The options list has got longer, sillier and miles away from the original list price. Few things are left as standard nowadays, so how do you make up your mind what to add to the bare bones of your basic car?

I don't know if the Ring Trick™ has made it to where you live, but I see someone fall victim to it virtually every day round my way. This is how it works: you are walking along the street and someone approaches from the opposite direction. They are usually dressed almost entirely in denim and of, let's call it, western Ottoman extraction. As they pass they will crouch down to pick something up: a ring! They offer it to you. It is gold and shiny. "Wow, look!" they say, handing it to you. "It's not mine. You may as well have it." You take it for a closer look and in that instant they have you. They will pester you the length of the street for "a small consideration" in exchange for the ring you have accepted.

Car manufacturers make much of their money from a similar scam. It's called the options list. They sell you a nice shiny new car that looks pretty much like the one in the ads but you open the door to find its furnished like a squat. You'll be wanting leather and air con, surely, sir? Three grand please. CD changer? £500. It'll look pretty bare without parking radar, hands-free phone kit, heated steering, flappy paddle gear change too, right?

BMW used to be notorious for this, but it is no longer the worst offender. Rumour has it that VW/Audi makes more profit selling an A8 owner satnav than it does selling an entire Polo. Ceramic brakes on a Porsche GT3 will set you back £6,000. (Not to have them would be unthinkable.) And you can easily add the price of a Focus to your Lexus LS. The budget cars can be just as bad. The list price on a VW Fox may seem tempting, but aside from some seats and the view, you get virtually nothing as standard, not even air con.

Leather, automatic transmission and satnav do hold their value, but fancy wheels, trim, and glittery paint often don't. But I say we draw a line in the sand way higher on the list than that. It is time to take a stand against these hustlers. I propose that, from now on, when the dealer wafts the options list under your nose and talks about how much better your life would be with a reversing camera, keyless entry, massage seats and lane departure warning, make like you're at the kasbah and wave him away.

That's right. No more options. Not until they they start including them in the sticker price and then, maybe, we'll talk.


From Belfast Telegraph