The Swiss are reknowned for their efficiency and I’m used to the smoothness of dealing with officialdom here. The extent of the efficiency surprised me a little this morning, though, when for the first time since I’ve lived here, I had to take my car to the testing centre. The “Amtliche Fahrzeugprüfung” is akin to the British Ministry of Transport test (ubiquitously known as the MOT) and is due in Switzerland on vehicles four years old, then after a further three years, and thence every two years.
This was my first test because I scrapped my rattling old BMW a year after arrival here, as there was absolutely no chance it would’ve passed the stringent testing and wasn’t worth the potential repair costs. I then leased a new car for a couple of years and used only public transport for six years after that, before buying my Golf at the end of 2010. A letter telling me that my appointment had been set for this morning at 8.10 a.m. arrived a couple of weeks ago: no messing around with finding suitable appointment times, just “turn up here at this time”. And so I did, arriving a few minutes early as requested to join the short queue of cars, bikes and caravan-towing locals lined up before the sparklingly clean testing centre in Thun.
A gruff, bearded Swiss man in traditional workshop supervisor coat instructed me to drive onto the ramp, where he quickly and efficiently ran through the check list before taking over to test brakes and suspension on what appeared to be brand new equipment. A quick drive around the block to make sure that nothing was out of order and the test was over; 8 minutes from start to finish, with a stamp on the test results and vehicle registration document sealing the deal. Not even a bill to pay at the end of the test, as it’ll be sent by post later: a common occurence and good idea to make cashless payment via e-banking easier.
As I drove away, surprised but pleased that my eleven-year-old with 185,000 km on the clock had sailed through without even an advisory warning, I reflected on working in the oily, dirty experience of test centres in the UK when I was in my early twenties. Things have certainly moved on.