Editor’s blog: BSM picks Fiat and gives Vauxhall the boot

Huge amusement all round with the news that BSM, the UK’s largest driving school, has dumped GM’s Vauxhall Corsa and is switching to the painfully trendy Fiat 500 as its workhorse. It’s yet another blow to GM because – according to BSM – about 70% of learners who pass the test buy the model of car in which they learnt.

Fiat has signed a deal to supply 14,000 of the Polish-manufactured cars to BSM over four years, in a marketing deal that will attempt to inject a bit of Italian-style bella figura into the dowdy BSM brand (which incidentally is owned by a German private equity group, so it’s not very British any more). Those who pass in the Cinquecento will qualify for a 500 discount on the uber-trendy runabout.

One hopes that despite the fact that they will be learning in a Cinqucento, BSM’s customers don’t adopt any dodgy Italian driving habits. It was PJ O’ Rourke, the American essayist, who wrote, ‘I’ve had to do my share of driving in the Third World. In Mexico, Lebanon, the Philippines, Cyprus, El Salvador, Africa and Italy. (Italy is not technically part of the Third World, but no one has told the Italians.)’

The stereotype of the Italian driver as an excitable, aggressive, high speed Narcissus in Gucci loafers and a dented Fiat Punto has been around for years. The truth is that their accident statistics are marginally better per kilometre covered than other Southern European olive belt countries. One reason for this is the Italians’ superb system of autostrade. Never mind that most motorways probably cost twice their original budget after all the necessary kick-backs have been paid, or that, in the South, a number have a good few bodies six feet down fixed in concrete – the motorways get those Alfas, Lancias and Cinquecentos from Como to Calabria fast.

BSM will also presumably teach all pupil drivers that Italy is a country in which spectacle and gesture rule supreme. So Cinquecento novices will also have to learn a series of hand signs with which to insult each other. Besides the notorious cuckold gesture – which should always be deployed with great care – another is to extend the left arm horizontally out of the window and lower the palm towards the tarmac. This indicates your belief that the other driver is of low intelligence. Both gestures are subtler and altogether more effective than the crude American middle finger.

And then strictly to be avoided are Italian attitudes to driving under the influence. Many years ago I was hitching along the Northern coast of Sicily and was pleased, after a long wait, to be picked up by a couple of lads in a old Renault 5. No sooner were we under way – with The Doors ‘Light My Fire’ blasting from the cassette player – than one of the pair removed the light fitting in the plastic ceiling, took out a sizeable lump of cannabis and began preparation with his Rizlas. Within minutes not only were we swaying all over the road – the driver having succumbed to a fit of the drug-induced giggles – but forward visibility was severely compromised by clouds of dope smoke. Through the haze I saw a carabinieri road block up ahead and had grim visions of spending the night in a Palermo police cell with some member of the Gambino family. Luckily our driver escaped with an on-the-spot fine for a bald tyre.

What BSM won’t be telling customers is that the Fiat 500 is both built on the platform of but inferior to a standard Fiat Panda. And you won’t have to wait three months for one, or pay the daft premium to be a Notting Hill fashion victim.

In today’s bulletin:

UKFI rudderless as Kingman jumps ship
BP profits halve on lower oil prices
Editor’s blog: BSM picks Fiat and gives Vauxhall the boot
Broadband adverts exaggerate shocker
‘Our bank is putting our entire business at risk’

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    If only picking a new car was the only problem with BSM Driving School. As a bsm franchised instructor myself (for my sins).. i can honestly say that this is the least of my problems….i am more worried about being locked up for not payng my council tax bill…..or being thrown out of my house for not paying my rent…or even where the next meal for my children is coming from. Since the BIG takeover by the two muppets my business has gone from bad to worse….they seem content to chuck all this money at advertising and new cars and new graphics, they should sit and think about the instructors who have to pay £300 a week franchise whether they work 40 hours a week or 10….i am currently in debt with BSM cause they dont supply me with enough pupils to cover my franchise costs…let alone earn money to keep my family ticking over…they have even made so many staff members redundant across the country that the offices cant manage the phone calls which come in , let alone deal with instructor enquiries, do we get a reduction in our franchises for this…NO…is the answer….and all the hype of BSM dumping Vauxhall…well that is a different matter that the media seems misinformed about…..all i can say is BSM are thinking about the wrong people in all of this i had to pay BSM £17000.00 last year and my earings were £4400…mmmm…wheres the logic in that…would you go to work and earn £500 a week but pay your company £375 for the privilage….i think not..