Fleet News

When heroes turn out to be villains

'EVERY manufacturer has always wanted to have what they regard as their 'hero' or 'halo' car – the one vehicle drivers aspire to. In each case it's the car that shows what that company fundamentally stands for – its essential 'brand values'. This has often hinged on developing the biggest, brashest and most expensive car to carry that flag.

But over the years many have also learned by experience that the car they intended to have this halo effect has quite simply lost it. Instead, what is happening now is that what turns out to be the true halo car tends to be smaller, less expensive and often a niche product.

They are still the sort of cars people will work overtime to own and drive. They include the Audi TT, Volkswagen Beetle Cabriolet (although many still believe the Golf GTi is the ultimate VW), Hyundai Coupe, BMW X5, Ford Streetka, Peugeot 206 Coupe Cabriolet and Toyota MR2.

Not everyone will agree with this list – desirability is, after all, a matter of personal opinion – and of course it clearly doesn't include the obvious supercars from the likes of Porsche, Ferrari and Aston Martin.

It is based on mainstream manufacturers with a model in everyone's price range. Some manufacturers do still insist on having as their flagship the biggest, fastest car they make, but it is usually the more affordable cars that dictate the public's perceptions and lift image and awareness of a manufacturer.

Looking back over the years, it has always been interesting to follow the fortunes of the intended halo car and how often on the used market this has turned out more to be the villain in terms of residuals and demand.

In my view, this will continue as long as some manufacturers aim for the largest, brashest cars – those that tend to suffer on the used market. My list of hero cars look great on the road now and certainly offer value for money.

But more importantly, they will all look great and retain freshness for years to come. They will likely remain sought after even after production has ceased, rather than struggle to sell while production is still in full swing.

Volatile time sees stock shortage

The auction scene has been a little volatile over the past couple of weeks, with conversion rates reportedly varying from as low as 30% right up to almost 100%. There are no clear patterns, whether you look at the time of the week or geographical location, but what is still clear is the continuing shortage of good clean cars available. However, there is a build-up of less desirable vehicles and one change from recent months is that these are no longer being snapped up quite so readily. There are obvious dividends to be reaped here, if preparation is therefore top notch. Another clear factor is trade hunger for anything a bit different, such as coupes, small 4x4s, people carriers, cabriolets and convertibles. Some are also expressing concern over the number of late low-mileage cars and this is one area that requires monitoring.

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