Fleet News

Knock-on effect of the pace of change

'Last week I went through my list of some of the models due to be launched this year. Keeping up with all the changes is a full time job in itself, but the real concern has to be that as new models, facelifts or 'freshenings' appear, it makes the ones they replace suddenly look dated.

This is an age-old problem and one that is increasing as the life cycles of vehicles shorten and replacements become more frequent. Cars seem to have an in-built time bomb, with residual values set to self-destruct more quickly than ever.

There are grumblings about in the industry that we increasingly see change for its own sake. You can have a perfectly good car that sells well and holds its own on the used market. Then, out of the blue, comes along a replacement and the previous model goes downhill rapidly.

But on the positive side, all the new models appearing do offer increased safety, with every generation featuring better systems to avoid accidents or create a safer environment in the case of collision.

It is interesting to study figures produced by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) in its 2002 Motor Industry Fact Book. In 1971, there were 12,357,868 cars on Britain's roads and 7,499 road fatalities.

In 2000 the number of cars had more than doubled to 27,184,607. However, although still too many, the number of deaths halved to 3,409.

So are drivers getting better, or are cars becoming safer? Looking daily at how some drivers behave, one has to assume it isn't a case of improved driving standards.

Manufacturers are often criticised for their continual change of models, but if one of the paybacks is improved security and safety, then that is to be welcomed. Unfortunately, however, pressure on residual values remains unrelenting. But, of course, we always want everything – an excellent used car that is safe and well featured at a giveaway price.

As more and more on-board technology is introduced, you have to wonder whether drivers really appreciate what they have got and just how sophisticated it all is. Yet many of these on-board systems are geared towards safety and really should be understood as such.

I have never been a believer in driving courses or advanced driver training because you can't teach old dogs new tricks.

However, having enjoyed some excellent one-day training sessions, which included explanations of safety-related features, I have changed my opinion. Understanding the car and how it is designed can really help a driver out in potentially dangerous situations.'

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