Van design shows signs of harmonising with related car ranges

It’s accepted that, as often an emotive or fashion inspired purchase, a car has a limited lifecycle before it is facelifted or redesigned. This lifecycle has shortened in recent years with many car ranges being re-launched in a new guise by a manufacturer in as little as three year intervals. The customer’s desire for a car to be fresh, up to date, modern and fashionable combined with the manufacturer’s constant strive for sales and registrations sees the designers in car plants worldwide attempting to keep one step ahead of the game and be at the cutting edge of fashion.

Those of us working in the field of commercial vehicles have been accustomed to a different philosophy being typically demonstrated by vehicle operators.  A van / truck has been deemed to be a tool of the trade and primarily functional. Aesthetics and design being far less of a consideration than other factors more relevant to practicality, productivity, revenue potential, cost of ownership, dealer back up etc. As a result, manufacturers have been under less pressure to redesign the vehicles purely on the basis of fashion, indeed the Vauxhall Vivaro has remained pretty much unchanged externally since its launch in 2002. A possible exception to this is the 4x4 lifestyle double cab pick up market – these are often purchased by small businesses and are used as a dual purpose commercial vehicle and family transport. This sector is very sensitive and buyers will often put the traditional commercial vehicle buying criteria to one side and use the mindset of the car buyer.

But is there change in the air?  There is evidence that the previously insular car and commercial vehicle design teams within manufacturers are now under pressure to harmonise and produce a global range of vehicles with commonality in design and appearance. As an example, the new Ford Transit Custom has more than a passing resemblance to the S-Max and Galaxy car ranges. Elements of this have clearly been carried over to the new, yet to go on sale Transit van range, and indeed the new Connect van has a ‘family resemblance’ to the latest generation of cars.

It can only be presumed that, as the car ranges are replaced over time, new themes will be introduced and undoubtedly these will make their way into the commercial vehicle ranges. It would seem unlikely that a manufacturer would want a previous ‘fashion statement’ still on sale in van form a long time after the car ranges have adopted the latest fashion statement.  

In addition, there seems to be a palpable sense of operators becoming more ‘image conscious’ of their business, brands etc. and it can only be assumed that aesthetics will start to be more of a consideration when choosing replacement vehicles.

Is this likely to have an effect on future residual values? The undoubted answer is yes. Initially we would expect little change but if the trend becomes more established and facelifts more common, risk managers will have to consider the weakened desirability of a vehicle at disposal time if the likelihood that it will have been superseded in the meantime is high. Here at CAP, we are, and will continue to absorb market intelligence and trends and respond if appropriate.

By Tim Cattlin, Monitor Editor - Commercial Vehicles