Fleet News

Building cars for the used market

'KEY to the success of a new car is innovation. But it should never be forgotten that a car spends most of its life as a used vehicle and that is where its desirability is truly measured. If the used car buyer is not interested then long term it is effectively doomed.

There are numerous reasons why a car might not succeed and manufacturers take quite a gamble with every new model and accompanying feature they produce.

One of the major issues for consideration when the appeal of new cars compared with used is considered is new technology, systems and 'toys'. And understanding these – and where they will fit into the used car market – is a highly valuable skill for those buying for fleets with one eye on future disposal values. Every new gadget looks and sounds exciting at the new car launch, as well as making interesting reading in the motoring magazines, but time is the great leveller and history is littered with examples of great ideas that turned out not to inspire the used car buyer.

Take the four-wheel-steer system. It seemed like a good idea at the time but it didn't exactly inspire on the used forecourt and nobody now asks how on earth we manage to drive since its demise. The marketing people told us all about how it made parking easier while lane-changing became safer and more precise. But when it reached the used car forecourt the system had little real appeal.

The typical retail customer is always wary of some new technologies where they do not see them as indispensable. In the worst case, the potential buyer can view a new system as simply another potentially expensive repair job at some point.

Who can forget the 'talking voice synthesiser' – the talking car, which told you to fasten seat belts, release the handbrake and other handy 'tips' that we somehow manage to carry out without being reminded to this day.

In the end it was just a novelty that could be used to help sell a new car and enable the image-conscious customer to be different in some way. But, after a few times of listening to that voice, the novelty wore a bit thin. By the time used car customers had the chance to buy talking cars, they decided not to put their money where 'the mouth' was.

Happily, we see fewer of these kind of features these days and more useful ones, like parking sensors, which the public has taken to. The manufacturers are learning lessons every day and one of the most important ones is to build cars that work in the used market. Meanwhile, the art of the good fleet manager is to understand what will work on the used market and buy for the fleet accordingly. Balancing the desires of the user chooser with the front end costs and seeking guidance on – or even having your own 'feel' for – how the car and its features will be perceived on disposal is one of the keys to success.'

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