Fleet News

Thinking CAP

HARDWORKING Martin Ward scours the globe for the week’s insider fleet intelligence.

VISITED Fiat’s design centre in Turin, to have a look at its new five-door lower-medium sector hatch, the Bravo. We were accompanied by Paul Flint, Fiat UK’s fleet and used car remarketing manager.

In Turin, we were joined by Luigi Agretti, who is the new man responsible for European used car sales. He hasn’t got an easy job. In recent years, the large amount of short contract and rental business and the lack of success of the Croma and Stilo have made it tough to remarket Fiats in an orderly way.

But Fiat is generally getting better in the used market, mainly thanks to the success of the Grande Punto, which allows the brand to be more strategic. And Mr Agretti really seems to have his head screwed on.

The Bravo could well follow the Grande Punto’s lead. The same size as a Ford Focus, it looks well-proportion – more so in the metal than the photographs released recently – and will appeal to those who want something a little different that oozes Italian style and flair.

It goes on sale in the UK next July and, if it is priced right, with the right spec, there is no reason why it won’t sell in the low volume numbers Fiat has budgeted for.

Another week, another couple of small SUVs launched. This week, it’s one from Peugeot (the 4007) and one from Citroën (the C-Crosser). These, like all the other competitors – and there are plenty of them – are good-looking (although some may find the 4007’s nose hard to love), versatile and well-built, but are there enough customers for all of them, new and in a few years’ time?

If the anti-4x4 lobby have their way, then they could all be outlawed in a few years’ time anyway, despite their remarkably green engine outputs for their size.

I keep getting asked if LPG fuel will make a comeback, as people claim it is selling reasonably well in Europe. Well, let the figures speak for themselves. One manufacturer provided me with the following pan-European experience for sales of its LPG cars. In 2004, it sold 1,756 cars, in 2005, 489, and from January to July this year, that figure plummeted to 32.

There are numerous reasons for the decline, but a couple are the strength of the diesel proposition and the number of long tunnels in Europe that LPG-powered vehicles are now banned from entering for safety reasons, hardly helping consumer confidence.

Conclusion: LPG is almost dead.

Flew to Barcelona to drive the all-new MINI, which raises the extremely high bar set by the old one even higher.

Although every panel has been changed, it looks remarkably similar, which is no bad thing. I drove the Cooper and Cooper S, both of which have all-new engines that are more powerful and, importantly to fleets, have lower emissions.

It also drives so much better, is fashionable, compact, classless and holds on to those residuals like almost nothing else.

What a phenomenal job BMW has done. But the previous model still remains as popular as ever as a used car and there are plenty of buyers waiting for them to drop in value to around £5,000. At that price, it will take off again in the used market. The success of this remarkable brand shows no sign of waning.

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