Thursday, 9 July 2015

BUSINESS RATES

This is a short post. I understand that a Government body is responsible for determining the rateable value of businesses in Scotland. How transparent is this process? I am aware of one inconsistency. But no explanation has so far been forthcoming. The affected business may be closing because of lack of transparency and an apparent refusal to engage in a valid complaint. I assume there are other cases. I wonder whether there is a case for a formal inquiry into the practices of this Government body. Comments welcome.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

CAR SAFETY - The Spare Wheel, a lesson in banality of design

For the many years I have been driving I have always been reassured that should I have a tyre blowout - at least I could get moving again because I had a spare-wheel. Whatever the breakdowns I have suffered, a tyre blow-out was not too bad because it is relatively quick in dealing with. It might require road-side assistance to change the wheel, but at least I was mobile again.

I have acquired a new car, well it is a year old now. Made by Vauxhall, which I have grown to like as a producer of cars. I know nothing about cars, walked into a car dealership, told them that I wanted a car and an hour later was proud owner of a new car. It was an issue of need, as existing car had given up. It has the basics, steering wheel, four wheels, accelerator and brakes. I did assume it would have a spare wheel of the sort I am accustomed. I still know little about what I actually bought. On reflection, the dealer did not give me a full specification. But, then I know nothing about cars. It would have meant little. I put my trust into the person who sells me the car. I believe the dealer to be a reputable dealer. I still believe in that dealer.

Yesterday, the car had a tyre blow-out. I could not believe it when I discovered that my 'spare' wheel was not a full wheel but...

....a "temporary use spare wheels - non-standard spare/skinny spare" (AA @ www.theaa.com).

According to the AA car producers are increasingly moving to this with some only providing a 'Emergency inflation kit' - not much use when my tyre is shredded. I have since read that it is for the reason of weight and space!!! A full wheel would not be much heavier than this emergency wheel and yes there might be a space issue if minds are unimaginative. However, there is a basic requirement of a spare wheel that can function as effectively as that which it replaces. An MOT once required a complaint spare wheel. Have the MOT regulations changed?

I have been told that one is not supposed to drive more than 30 miles with this temporary wheel or the insurance is rendered invalid. The garage mechanic who changed my tyre told me that I should not do more than ten miles!  If I am in countryside remote from a garage on a Sunday, then what do I do? Even if a garage is open, is it likely to stock the specific tyre that I need? There are so many circumstances whereby I cannot comply to minimal use of the 'temporary' wheel. What happens if there is an accident with this 'temporary' wheel still mounted? Who is liable because the wheel covered 50 plus miles? The social cost of this backward move is what?

I despair of the banal mentality of whoever designs these substitutes for the real thing. What is the point of airbags etc, when a simple blow-out leaves me stranded, with a 'spare' that is effectively unsafe and bordering on the illegal.

The situation is symptomatic of an underlying issue that production designers are still not listening to users. It is not about imposing designs on the users but listening to users' needs. Von Hippel (2005) called it 'Democratizing Innovation'.

The user should not need to be expert but have the confidence that the supplier is expert, open and transparent. I have lost that faith.

I certainly have lost my faith in Vauxhall and other car makers who are following this trajectory of no full 'spare' wheel.