Fleet News

Image can damage your health and your residuals

'THERE will always be those cars with the 'must have' factor. Typically they are difficult to get hold of new, with long waiting lists but are simply the thing to be seen in. Image, as we know, is everything. These cars can be anything from two-seaters to four-wheel drives - it doesn't matter because it is the looks that count.

The fact that it is difficult to get another will add to the one-upmanship factor.

However, after a while, practicality takes hold and this fine machine does not do the job it was expected to. In many cases it is too uncomfortable to drive. It may look great in the golf club car park but you can't get any clubs in it. It may look fantastic turning up to a charity event, but if you can't get out of the car without showing tomorrow's washing, or having to ask for a pull out of it from some unsuspecting doorman, then it is eventually going to be time to say goodbye.

This leads to a growing number of cars on the used market, very early in their life, and once again the cycle is repeated. Somebody else buys into the image and then discovers its downfalls.

Driving it on the motorway for 200 miles seems to require a back specialist at each end of the journey. You look great but feel terrible in the lumbar department and so the car is moved on to another unsuspecting customer and the cycle repeats again and again.

There are many cars on the market right now that have had an unusually high number of owners in a very short time. These 'whim' cars are not your regular fleet cars - far from it - but sometimes do bear a resemblance in looks. But they are much more aggressive looking, with bigger wheels and tyres, creating a 'halo car' for the manufacturer.

These cars also have much stiffer suspension, different seats and handling that cannot fail to impress. Even the back specialists love them because they bring extra business. When driving these sought-after cars the dynamics are set up so that if you drive over a 10-pence coin you can tell if it is heads or tails.

So what of the future for these vehicles? Manufacturers will continue to produce high-powered sports saloons to attract a certain following new, but as used vehicles their future will be uncertain. The cost of ownership can far outweigh the image benefits they provide.

True super-sports-cars and exotica are with us forever and despite their impracticality, the credibility, image and desirability they create will always create demand.

But the moral of this story is to sink your money into the known, as opposed to the unknown. A car may be great around the test track but the hassle of a regular drive from Manchester to London may lead to a bit of a residual disaster.

The best of cars, in performance terms, can still end up as the biggest lemons. As they say, biggest is not necessarily best and nor is the fastest. Every manufacturer can offer these cars but the trick is understanding the practicalities of ownership and getting the balance right on the fleet.'

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