Fleet News

Number's up for 'Y' and 'X' with the arrival of '52'

With March just around the corner the current '51' plate, which doesn't seem to have been with us for five minutes, is about to disappear to make way for the new '02' plate.

Then the aging factor will start all over again, making X and Y plates begin to look ancient. They will become far removed from nearly new status in the eyes of the trade, despite being only a year old. This twice a year plate change is really making its mark on residual values and as we get more into the new format then the old style plate will date even quicker. There are already plenty of used or pre-registered 51 plate vehicles in the market and the number will certainly rise over the coming weeks. As manufacturers, dealers and daily rental companies replace their fleets they will be left with last year's models to dispose of. And they have to sell at a price that is competitive with new product, but also in many cases with an all-new model that has been, or is about to be, launched.

On a lighter note, if the 51 plate is going to stick in all our minds for the England v. Germany score, then perhaps this year's registration is something to remember the new benefit in kind taxation system by – based, of course, on C 'O2' emissions! Somebody brought to my attention this week that all Vauxhall cars end with the letter 'A' – Vectra, Calibra, Nova, Corsa, Agila, Omega, Zafira and so on. However their light commercials all end in an 'O' – Combo, Movano, Vivaro. Whether this was a conscious decision or pure coincidence, we don't know. But if this trend is to continue, naming future models using the same parameters and ending with the same letter could cause their marketing people a bit of a problem. The alternative is to simply stick with the current names and use them indefinitely but this is not always a good idea for residual values. There must have been hours of debate over the new Vectra and indeed other new launches. Sometimes a fresh name can help residuals and this was certainly the case when the Focus replaced the Escort and the Carina gave way to the Avensis.

It can boost the vehicle's image and give a whole new lease of life. However there are some cars such as the 3 Series, the Golf or the Fiesta which are such well-established household names that they are unlikely to ever be changed.

According to our senior Red Book editor David Hill, the van market is still busy and should remain so right through until the end of March. There are some underlying concerns however with the prospect of a sudden flood of vans onto the market, particularly fridge vans, being the major issue at the moment. The possibility of more than one company closing the doors would have a knock-on effect on van values as their fleets would land at the auction halls in one hit. This would cause disruption to the delicate balance of supply and demand, push values downward, and interrupt the buoyancy currently enjoyed in the marketplace.

Another area to watch is the sheer number of Astravans and Vauxhall Combos available in the marketplace. A good number of the Astravans are coming from the fleet industry, although at the moment they are coming from a number of sources, in particular late plate models. Care needs to be taken when buying Combos and some thought given to maximising future residual values because every time a transporter is seen on the roads it seems to be delivering another batch. And many of these appear to be identical, not the best scenario for disposals in future. Even now every auction seems to have line after line of Combos and Astravans parked outside.

In terms of panel vans the new shape short wheel base Ford Transit is beginning to struggle a little with the honeymoon period clearly at an end. This is now affecting the older shape SWB model. On the other hand dropsides and tippers remain somewhat scarce and are performing very strongly in terms of values. Generally the current market for light commercials remains positive with auction sites being well attended by both vendors and buyers and retail customers are keeping staff busy at showroom sites.

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