Fleet News

Read between the press release lines

'THE volume of information issued every week by the public relations departments of manufacturers is remarkable. Amid the announcements of success, attempts at brand positioning and public relations advantage, there's a mountain of hard facts about the vehicles themselves.

This is extremely valuable to myself – and to CAP as a business. Not only does it underline much of what we already know and understand through our personal and direct contact with key industry organisations, but offers a window on the future.

An important fact about the latest technological feature available on a certain model range will often give a strong clue to future trends and developments. Key to our own operations – because it is key to those of our customers – is delving as deeply as possible into these facts to place them in context.

Here is an excellent example. Among the range of interesting facts that have emerged over the past few weeks is that BMW sold 9,500 Cooper Ss in 2003. However, looking deeper we learn even more useful information.

For example, 9,500 Cooper S sales represents 24% of the MINI mix. Then there is the fact that BMW expects this proportion to fall to 19% this year. And the more you investigate, the more interesting it becomes.

The most popular colour choice is Dark Silver, which represents 38.8% of those MINIs sold, followed by Electric Blue with 22.3% of sales. Then we learn that the Chili pack is fitted to 89.3% of Cooper Ss. This therefore raises the issue of whether the Chili pack-equipped MINI Cooper S qualifies as more of a 'standard' vehicle than the official basic model.

On the new Golf, which has just gone on sale, Volkswagen projects that almost 55% of sales will be diesel powered. SE trim level will feature on 45% of new Golfs, while the base model – a 1.4iS three-door – is expected to represent just 1% of sales. Once again, this raises interesting questions about the perception or interpretation of the term 'standard' model.

The most popular colour so far is Reflex Silver, followed by Diamond Black. These two colours alone represent 62% of customer orders.

With the recently introduced Mazda3, 76% of sales are projected to be five-door, with four-door saloon predicted to make up the rest of this year's anticipated 11,000 sales. The Nissan 350Z may not be the typical fleet car but it will inevitably find its way onto some lists. Available in two models only, the 350Z will account for 20% of sales with the GT version representing 80%. Here we see a three-horse race between the most popular colours, Blade Silver (27%), Gunmetal Grey (26.5%) and Sunset Red (19.4%).

To the untrained eye, the sheer volume of information may appear daunting and, perhaps, irrelevant to business today. But the value of these facts really begins to come into its own because there are important pointers to the future in the most apparently esoteric collections of facts.

For example, you just received a useful indication of tomorrow's used car market, if you were paying close attention. Look ahead now. While it may be easy to find a used silver SE Golf diesel in three years, a white three-door will be a rarity.

This technical information – which we publish for subscribers to CAP New Vehicle Data – has important ramifications for our own Monitor – Future Residual Values product along with anyone else concerned with assessing their future risk on today's new cars.

Raw information is one thing but to get the most out of it you must collate then learn to interpret the implications and links that may exist between stand-alone facts that emerge on a daily basis in our industry.'

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