Car trouble

I write this on the terrace while enjoying my second breakfast coffee ahead of another sunny day. Only downside is I’m surrounded by French accents as they seem to have coordinated a Gallic invasion of Quattro Passeri in recent days. Oo la la!

Let’s put it this way, if anyone needs advice about car repair places in Rimini, I’m your man!

Last year, with the green XC60, I spent quite some time buggering around fixing a broken windscreen that eventually got fixed in Rimini.

This year, with the new XC60, I get to learn about replacing alternators. I’ll try to keep this tale of woe short.

Prelude – before I left Warsaw I took the car to the garage because I knew something wasn’t right. Intermittent whining noises that were in synch with engine revolutions suggested to me at the time either gearbox or something attached to a belt. Warsaw garage avec computer aided diagnosis said “Everything is fine, go to Italy!”. Wrong answer.

Occasional noises continued but we got here fine.

The trip to Arezzo on the hellish E45 finally resolved the problem. The noise was now much louder and constant.

Wednesday morning I took the car to Volvo dealer in Cesena for a second opinion. The mechanic took one listen and said I should leave the car there and he’ll have it fixed by Monday and by the way, here, sign these papers. I didn’t sign but got on the phone to various people responsible for the car which includes the following characters:

> Arval leasing company
> Volvo Assistance Poland
> Volvo Assistance Italy
> Person in my company responsible for cars

Between 10:00 and 13:00 I was unable to get an answer from anyone above on what I should do. The garage was closing for lunch (for 3 hours) so I drove back to the hotel.

I wasn’t convinced by the Cesena garage so booked into a bigger one in Rimini for Thursday morning. Five kilometers from the garage the car finally admitted I was right and displayed red warning lights and told me a service was urgently needed.


I arrived at the garage at 09:50 and after 10 minutes Fabio, with Volvo diagnostic help, confirmed the alternator was fucked. I asked him to call Volvo Assistance Italy who had a case open for my registration number and confirm this because I needed a replacement car and this “technical report” (I had learned from the day before) was essential. He said he did that and I believe him.

I crossed the road to the truckstop hotel/restaurant with hopes of soon collecting my rental car and continuing my holiday. Cutting this short because my phone tells me I was involved in over SIXTY phone conversations on this matter, by four hours later we had progressed as far as Arval still shirking responsibility and fobbing me off to Volvo and Volvo Assistance Poland telling me they were still waiting to speak to the garage to get confirmation my car was kaput. Of course by this time the new garage was closed for lunch!

Bear in mind this whole episode revolves around a less than one year old, under guarantee, car with only 12,500 km on the clock that is clearly undriveable and the cost of renting (what turns out to be) a Fiat 500L for a couple of days. Cost of less than €100. Between us we have spent double that in phone calls!

In the end I walk back across the road to the garage, call Volvo Arsesistance Poland myself and hand the phone to Fabio. They ask a couple of questions, he confirms the car is screwed. That’s it. After what is now close to seven hours they agree to rent me a car. I wait even longer while they do that and finally take a half hour walk down the road in 30C, without pavements on a busy road to Rimini airport to collect the car.

I could and probably should have just rented a car myself and saved a day (and a half) of my holiday but there is a principle at stake here. I was covered by multiple forms of assistance – a car under guarantee, an assistance package that will provide a replacement car, regular insurance, an additional VIP insurance package for traveling abroad, etc and so forth and yet in the end every single one of these failed miserably. They spent the whole time either blaming each other or failing to communicate, most spectacularly between Volvo Arsesistance Poland and Volvo Arsesistance Italy, laughingly labelled as Volvo Arsesistance Europe. I was not short of people asking me “how is it going?”. I was completely lacking anyone who was actually trying to help resolve what was in fact an extremely simple matter – car broke, get it fixed, replacement car.

What I did wrong was to anticipate the fault with the car. Everyone was prepared for a roadside breakdown and towing trucks – these things pressed all the right buttons and I should have just kept driving until the car catastrophically failed somewhere up a hill with no phone signal or by the side of an autostrada on our way home. Silly me for knowing this was going to happen sometime in the near future, for not wanting to spoil my family’s holiday as well as mine and for trying to deal with it at a convenient time and place for us. Stupid idea. I should just behave like everyone else and then all the so called assistance people would understand.

Theoretically, the car will be fixed this evening but we are in Italy so who knows.

That is two years running we have come here and had car trouble. I have never had car trouble in Poland. We either need to stop coming here or I need to stop ordering Volvos. Based on the performance of Volvo Arsesistance the latter is looking like a good option but would anyone else be better under the same circumstances……and it is a lovely car to drive.

To avoid sounding like a spoiled brat, I do appreciate the benefit of having a nice car, provided by the company, to bring on holiday and a little mucking around is a small price to pay but when things like this happen and you’re faced with so much incompetence it’s hard not to be pretty disappointed by the experience.


4 thoughts on “Car trouble

  1. If whoever is at the controls customizes hell for each of us to maximize the agony, it won’t be hot pokers and overtly nasty beings for me. It will be countless people telling me how much they care, yet somehow “unable” to give me what I need. Wait…I think I’ve been there…heh heh. And it sounds like you just had a short visit yourself.

    Well, here’s to the rest of the trip going smoothly. I love reading your holiday posts – it’s like two vacations in one. Dinner yesterday looked fabulous. Greetings from Lwów. Where phone calls are m u c h cheaper than car rentals.

  2. Bloody hell, Ian. What a ghastly story of sheer incompetence from people who are taking good money to help you when you need it. Volvo’s current advertising in Britain plays the theme ‘you don’t have to buy a German car to get the best. Buy a Volvo instead.’ If I were in your shoes (not Italian shoes, I hope), Volvo would never enjoy my custom again. Italy might not either. Here’s hoping things go well for you all from here on.

  3. Sad tales mate. Been there with RAC Insurance promising the world and then abandoning me+family after my beloved little 1971 Escort gave up the ghost somewhere in darkest Cleremont Ferrand on return to Hannover from Gibraltar
    I trust Merc’s all embracing Mobilo system will not drop us in the doo-doo next month as we’re off to be ‘happy campers’ in Brittany

  4. Well, top marks for the Italian garage. They got the car ready on time, end of yesterday as promised. Not believing they would I had taken the family on a tour in the rented “mini Lamborghini” (Fiat 500L) and got the message at 17:20 that it was done and I could collect on Monday because they closed at 18:30 and were closed all weekend! I must admit I had never considered a big Volvo dealer would be closed on Saturday, which was my idea about when to collect.

    I called an immediate halt to the tour and we raced back from Brisighella to Rimini, arriving at the garage at 18:26 although Fabio had already confirmed he’d stay until we got there. Looked like the cost was just over €700!

    Now back in Volvo and Lamborghini 500L returned to Hertz

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