Vehicle valuation specialist EurotaxGlass's has suggested that a lack of consumer understanding about the benefits of some 'niche' and 'cross-over' vehicles may be affecting their residual values.

Such models include mini MPVs (minivans) such as the Fiat Idea, Vauxhall (Opel) Meriva and Renault Modus, larger volume-brand models like the Vauxhall Signum and premium-brand 4x4 (SUV), plus cross-over vehicles such as the Audi A6 Allroad, Volvo XC70 and Mercedes R-Class).

According to EurotaxGlass's, 10 years ago new cars could be easily defined by size and function and there was an obvious distinction between mass market and premium brands. However, these clear lines of demarcation are becoming increasingly blurred as manufacturers launch growing numbers of specialised niche vehicles, as well as 'cross-over' models that blend characteristics of two or more sectors. This has helped fuel a 42% increase in the number of new cars available in the UK over the past three years alone.

Both new and used [vehicle] customers are likely to become progressively more confused by what some of these more specialised products offer, with negative implications for demand and residual values.

"The appeal for manufacturers is to create a new niche that has not been exploited before in the hope that they will be able to attract a new type of customer. However, it is apparent that some models are failing to make their mark on the consciousness of the consumer. Until popular acceptance of the merits of some of these specialised new niche sectors improves, manufacturers may need to limit availability to avoid damaging falls in values," said a EurotaxGlass's spokesman.