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Car add-ons outpace van market

New engine technology and other safety improvements will be increasingly important features in the used van and car market over the next few years.

Safety features like airbags, ABS and Side Impact Protection will all be paramount in the used car buyers mind. Look at the advertising message today, with children and cats hiding in or under cars to symbolise their safety.

These messages will be absorbed by the retail customer and ex-contract hire cars low on safety features will come under increasing pressure.

It is often assumed that the better the car, the more retail money it will command. In truth, customers won't want to give any more money for the 'safer' car and therefore the impact on values will be negative for all those standard three year olds with 75,000 miles. We have seen all this before with paint, windows, roof and most recently, air con.

Another factor is engine technology. Again the 'dirty' diesel is on the up while technology is moving just as fast as sales. The launch of a new engine giving greener, cleaner performance with more miles per gallon/litre seems like a monthly event. But don't expect the best examples to maintain a premium in three years time because the market now expects excellence as standard.

All this means that people who have the user chooser option should be monitored closely when deciding on their next car. The fleet manager must now be aware that the used marketplace is moving at a phenomenal pace and today's choices will impact on tomorrow's bottom line.

The same can be said in the light commercial marketplace. The used van man may be less fussy about some features but more adamant about others. Engines in the used van market are, of course, predominantly diesel but the technology is fantastic.  With power ranging from 75bhp right through to 160 bhp the ability to pull 3.5tonnes along at 100 mile per hour and still return 20 to the gallon is perfectly feasible (although not condoned here!).

But while CD players and air con are not so critical to van man, power windows, mirrors and of course power steering are all absolutely essential today.

Today's lcv marketplace is somewhere behind the car market in that higher quality vans with all the extras are not yet putting downward pressure on the rest. But rest assured, that is only because there are not yet enough examples turning up with all the toys on. But when they do, it will cost the low-specced van operator dear.

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