Image vanity reaches the van market as importance of aesthetic appeal grows, says CAP

VANITY has finally reached the van market – revealed by the rapidity of model design changes introduced by manufacturers.

The trend is revealed by experts at CAP Automotive, the independent authority on the current and future values of all vehicles on the UK’s roads.

Until now the van world has generally been considered immune from the pace of change that sees car designs changing more often today than ever before.

Last year CAP reported that the shelf life of some car models has halved since the 1970s as manufacturers compete to keep their products as fresh and interesting as possible.

But design changes and introduction of new features in the van market have always taken place at a more sedate pace – until now.

The growing importance of aesthetic appeal is identified by CAP’s van price forecasting expert, Tim Cattlin, who says the days of vans being seen purely as a work tool are over.

Writing on the CAP Automotive blog at Tim Cattlin reveals that the importance of a fresh look and new features is more important to van users than ever before.

He argues that historically the only part of the light commercial vehicle market which was strongly susceptible to fashion tastes has been the 4x4 lifestyle vehicle.  This was because, although it is a commercial vehicle, it is generally viewed and used as a family vehicle as well as a ‘workhorse’.

Cattlin said: “We are familiar with how car manufacturers refresh their models by introducing ‘facelifts’ or all-new replacements with increasing regularity.

“This has led to a constant race between manufacturers to have the freshest product in the market, while many light commercial vehicle models have evolved very much more slowly.

“But the days of the van being seen as purely a tool to get a job done are clearly ending and the signs are strongest in the one tonne panel van market.

“For example, Ford has spent the first 18 months of the life of the Transit Custom successfully cultivating the ‘artisan’ retail smaller business sector.  Looking at registration statistics there has been a high proportion of ‘Trend’ and ‘Limited’ models, with relatively high specification, sold.

“But along with this kind of design and feature dynamism, designed to inspire the end user to keep up with the latest look and feel, comes the risk of less stable used van values.

“Looking again at the 4x4 lifestyle vehicle, key players in that sector such as Mitsubishi, Nissan, Toyota and Ford are fully aware of how their current offering can fall out of fashion quickly. When that happens and a model starts to fall behind its peers in terms of image, then demand drops off in the used market sufficiently to cause more rapidly falling values.

“In our own forecasting of future light commercial vehicle values we are now extending this lifecycle effect to other areas of the LCV market because we believe it will have an increasingly significant bearing on the value realised at disposal time.

“The days when a van was solely regarded as a work tool are certainly coming to an end.  Even a relatively unchanged vehicle like the Volkswagen Transporter has gained a cult lifestyle following because it is so well suited to conversion for the leisure market.

“In the end, the creep of vanity into the van market is a mixed blessing. It ensures a more dynamic marketplace, with exciting and fresh offerings appearing with increasing regularity.  But it also threatens faster depreciation as model ‘shelf life’ begins to shorten and end users are constantly drawn to the newest vehicle on offer.”


A more detailed discussion of this issue by Tim Cattlin can be found on his blog at