In soccer speak, it is called a dip in form. This is when a once waltzing star player on the pitch is now on the subsitute’s bench and has few match appearances. Some cars become very popular but for some reasons, interest in them wanes.
Jude: There are some car brands that have somehow lost ground in the used car market and as such, no longer command the respect they held in the past. These include the VW Golf Mk4, Subaru Legacy B4, Mitsubishi Pajero V60 (the one nicknamed Bitama), the first generation Subaru Forester, Toyota Vista Ardeo and the BMW 3 series, E36.
Mustafa: Is that the Dolphin BMW? It is a popular car that one. But the popularity is going down.
Jude: Yes, that one. But what could be the issue with these fine cars?
Mustafa: There was a time when I was getting into the market for a used car and I strongly admired the B4. It came with nice sports rims, the turbo charger, I liked its two stage twin turbo which means it is a sequential turbo. One engages a certain RPM and the other maybe at 3,000 but at 5,000 the other one engages so you have a two stage power boost. Really cool stuff, but today they are nowhere.
Jude: Do you mean they have disappeared? I see them.
Mustafa: But not as much as the case was in the past.
Jude: I actually fancy the station wagon Legacy but I know someone who doesn’t like it.
Paul: We need to look at the issues people have with these cars. One issue is parts. Some people don’t think of the afterlife of the cars they have bought. Progressively, they realise they bought a used car and not a new car. So he drives it and life is good and after a few months, he will need to replace the filters and lubricants. Progressively, it becomes an issue of suspensions because of our bad roads. Some forget that they bought a car that was over 100,000km. That sort of car has experienced a lot of wear and tear. But on good roads in Japan even at 100,000km, this wear and tear won’t come out as fast as it does here. So when subjected to some of our bad roads, the suspension begins to break down. It now becomes an issue of not regular maintenance but repair. So this person goes to town looking for the suspension parts of his B4 and doesn’t get them. When he goes to the Subaru dealer, he doesn’t get the parts because his car is a grey import (not meant for this market). He only has filters, he may not have tie rod ends, rack ends, and probably the dealer may have shock absorbers. So when the owner wants to sell off the car, people want to buy it for a song. He cannot get something worthy out of it so the popularity goes down.
Jude: So many issues!
Paul: You mentioned the Vista Ardeo. It is a very good car because the fuel filter is in the tank and not every average technician can replace that or even realise that at 100,000km you need to replace the fuel filter or buy a genuine one from the main local Toyota dealer. Its D4 engine is very sensitive to the quality of oil. If you use adulterated fuel, that will affect its performance because it is very sensitive to its octane rating of fuel. You must in fact use specific oils. Most D4s have a variable valve timing intelligent system which depends a lot on the quality of oil. The VVTi system works well with a high quality of oil. If the oil is not good, the system will be affected or damaged and the damage is very expensive. Because parts are not available at Toyota Uganda, you end up buying another D4 engine at Shs6m.
Jude: So is this car’s issue with the D4 engine or our mechanics not knowing much about the maintenance of the D4 engine?
Paul: Partly, the skills level of our vehicle repair industry has been developed. Five years ago, if you had a car with a D4 engine, the mechanic would tell you to remove it and put an ordinary engine. Today, the skills situation has improved but not the parts issue. Now people are realising that most cars coming in now have D4 engines, so what are they going to do? Before we get to the point that people are comfortable with these engines, the car’s value starts to dip.
Mustafa: What you mention is very important but for me the issue is why aren’t these cars as popular say three years ago? I can understand the technical aspect, that some had bad engines or mechanics just failed to fix them and parts cannot be seen, but why isn’t this happening to other cars? Other cars are resilient.
Jude: Why don’t we break it down to particular cars? Let’s start with the Golf 4.