As with the full-size pickup market, the van market is a vital piece of the recovering economy. The service industries rely on vans, especially the full-sized cargo versions, as their offices on wheels.
Over the years, I have been fortunate enough to see vehicles evolve over time, and even witness completely new models and segments come into existence. We are now witnessing the tail end of the traditional full-size van market that has served so many for work, pleasure, and group transportation, as it is dramatically changing in appearance and technology. With the completion of the current orders for the 2015 Chevrolet Express and the GMC Savana1500 series units, the transition to the European-styled units is complete.
With the new configurations, we have front-wheel drive and rear-wheel drive choices, and even a four-wheel drive option. We have seen the evolution to smaller gasoline and diesel engines. We now have multiple body sizes in both length and height. And, we have smaller, almost compact versions of most van brands.
There is another phenomenon that has taken place in the market during 2014. Almost every month, after the first quarter of this year, there have been some sales increases for traditional U.S.-style vans, sometimes as cargo versions and mostly as passenger versions.
As we gather and track the market data, and talk with the buyers and sellers of these units, while still on the auction lanes, the reason for this segment’s strength becomes clear. These used van units have been extremely popular for many years within the service industries for specialists such as plumbers, electricians, and carpet installers. With a steadily improving economy, the service industries are prospering while needing newer or additional units.
The second reason for the very minimal depreciation is the high demand for these vans within the used market due to the old-style unit no longer being manufactured. At some point the greater acceptance of the European-styled vans will take hold with used buyers. For now, you can only wish you had more of these units coming out of fleet service to run across the auction lanes.
Over the past three years the full-size van segment has had an annual depreciation of 10 percent in 2011, increasing to 11.3 percent and 11.4 percent in 2012 and 2013 respectively. The interest for these vans exploded in 2014 as depreciation fell to 5 percent. We feel the demand will continue with depreciation climbing back to the 9.5-10 percent level in 2015.
Ricky Beggs is senior vice president, editorial director at Black Book. He can be reached via email at [email protected]