THE area of motoring regarde d as the best indicator of real economic activity is showing signs of tentative improvement.
The commercial van segment is regarded as the most accurate indication of what is really going on out there in the real world.
Mind you the figures are relatively modest – up 2pc/3pc for this year; and next to around 9,000 so we won't be getting carried away. That's for 'pure' commercials and does not include car-derived-vans etc.
But over the next four or five years, the picture could get a lot brighter.
Volkswagen's experts told us at a special Commercials Day that they expect the market to return to the 15,000 mark or thereabouts by 2018. That's a huge increase and one that, we hope, materialises because it will herald the recovery of the real economy.
By the real economy I mean, people doing business on the ground – not speculating on property and shares.
We are talking about the buyers and users of Caddy vans, Transporters and Crafters – which we were repeatedly told can all be harnessed for specific jobs. These are the farmers, plumbers, electricians, small business people, whose enterprise knits the fabric of an economy and society together.
They, as Volkswagen emphasise, are the future and they are the ones to start the growth. As such they are being focused on like never before – not just by VW you can be sure. For the moment, however, let's see what VW is doing.
First, they now have 24 VW van centres – with a specialist (not just a salesman) to look after individual demands. This is pure focus. Then there is the VW Bank which is lending a lot of money.
The Personal Contract Plans are seen as the way of the future: you pay a deposit and so much a month for three years.
As such it does make it easier for a business to get into a new vehicle.
The finance rate is 4.9pc but for those ordering by December 20 for delivery next year, they are charging zero – yes 0pc APR.
They are also bringing in an unlimited three-year and four-year mileage warranties on the vans (depending on which one) registered next year.
And they have added a Trendline spec which costs upwards of €1,150 (again depending on van) but if you had to add the components of the package (cruise control, Bluetooth, electric/heated mirrors, parking distance control etc) it would cost a lot more.
There's lots of other stuff too but you get the message: I'd call it a serious attempt to get more people into a new van as part of a general economic uplift.
All we can say is that we hope this push by Volkswagen – and others of course – will help the green shoots to put down some roots.