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NEW AND SHINY EQUALS COSTLY: The shorter "shelf life" of modern cars is costing the consumer more as models depreciate much quicker than before. Image: Newspress

LONDON, England - Drivers are bombarded with choice when it comes to new cars but the ever-shorter shelf-life of models is hitting them in the wallet, according to car information expert CAP Automotive.

Analysis new-model introductions over the past 30 years by CAP reveals a dramatically shorter “shelf-life” for modern new vehicles. While buyers benefit from advances in car quality they pay a heavy price for faster depreciation as vehicles go out of style quicker.


The period between replacement model introductions or significant “facelifts” has shrunk from 10 years in the 1970's and '80's to three for four years in 2013.

CAP expert David Saville said: “As Ford rolls out its latest Fiesta – and Volkswagen its atest Golf –y ou can’t help feeling like it’s only two minutes since the previous generation was introduced in each case. The outgoing Fiesta reached showrooms in 2008 and and the previous Golf the end of 2009.

“Looking back, the first Fiesta was introduced in 1976 and ran until 1983. The Golf was introduced in 1974 and remained substantially unchanged until 1983. Therefore, for three decades, these popular models have gone from a life-cycle of nearly 10 years, with minimal technical changes, to around four years with quite often substantial technical changes each time.”

Saville attributes much of the impetus behind the ever-tougher exhaust emissions standards, with automakers working to meet rapidly changing European rules.

“A model that had an acceptable level of CO2 emissions three years back is now totally out of step with the latest requirements,” Saville said. “Another significant aspect of shorter model lifecycles is the ease with which the look of a car can be changed using modern automotive design techniques."


Saville argues that while drivers benefit from constantly refreshing choices, they also pay for the shorter shelf-life of modern cars. “On the face of it the new-car buyer really benefits by always having a choice of bang up-to-date models from which to choose but this can also have a negative effect because most buyers have a car that they need to dispose of when they come back into the market.

“CAP analysis shows that faster depreciation is a particular issue for manufacturers who have adopted model lifecycles below the standard three-to-four year ownership pattern. In fact CAP has seen that certain manufacturers which have a history of dramatically changing their cars over a relatively short period have begun to take a step back and tone down visual changes to avoid damaging the previous model’s second-hand value.”

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