Fleet News

Sizzling season for those SUVs

'THERE is an assumption around the trade that some vehicle sales are directly related to the seasons and weather. This may have been true at one time but it certainly isn't now.

For example, the presumption is that summer is a prime time for sports cars. But the sales figures show that sports car sales are a year-round event.

It is true that the public's minds turn more readily to convertibles if the sun comes out but the reality is that buying activity continues throughout winter, with no real weighting towards the summer months.

The same line of reasoning applies to the 4x4 market with the assumption that sales come to a grinding halt in the summer. But CAP has done a lot of research in this area recently and found 4x4 sales to be buoyant, especially in the smaller SUV sector.

Among the favourites with the public are the Land Rover Freelander and the ever-popular Honda CR-V, while Toyota's RAV4 can't seem to put a foot wrong.

However, an interesting performer – and one that could be described as one of the best-kept secrets in the market – is the Nissan X-trail. In common with many vehicles of its ilk, the X-trail does have to be well specified, as basic models tend to be overlooked. But the good news is that these are in the minority because sales figures reveal basic models form less than 1% of the model mix so far this year. Compare that with 59.6% for the Sport model and it's safe to say there will be few undesirable X-trails around to worry about.

But for the real success story within this range you have to look to the diesel variant. So far this year 2,878 diesel models have been sold, compared with just over 1,200 petrol versions, forming 65% of all X-trail registrations.

Perhaps this sheds some light on why the X-trail's cousins – the Ford Maverick and Mazda Tribute – appear not to have caught the public's imagination in the same way. Could this be because of the absence of diesel variants?

Our research into the X-trail's success and desirability is reflected in August's CAP Monitor, with an uplift in residuals forecast across the range.

Other smaller 4x4 offerings from South Korea, such as the Hyundai Santa Fe and Kia Sorento, are also doing reasonably well as this market continues to expand. Happily, the used market is comfortably absorbing all the extra SUVs now being sold new and I see no reason why this should not continue for the foreseeable future. It is a well-established fact that the public is always looking to buy something a bit different these days – something useable, with practicality, roominess, image and presence. Badge appears to be low on the list of priorities, unlike the saloon market where badge is king, even for the average buyer.

In contrast, it seems that in the 4x4 market, looks and performance, along with reliability and manageable running costs, are what matter to the typical used buyer. This is one less headache for the fleet disposal manager, who can be confident that anything like this, regardless of size, should move on for good money and with a minimum of effort.'

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