The Italian manufacturer is confident its capable and sophisticated new Daily van will make a major impact in the UK marketplace, James Dallas reports
The Iveco Daily has for a long time been the preferred choice for operators looking for a large van that can put up with the sort of sustained punishment that would see most of its competitors buckle under the strain.
But while its toughness has never been an issue, the new generation model offers improved load carrying capacities, superior refinement and, best of all, the highly sophisticated eight-speed Hi-matic fully automatic transmission, which is a vast improvement on the six-speed semi-auto Agile system it has replaced.
The previous generation Daily was good – it won the What Van? large Van of the Year Award in 2013 – but the new one represents a big step up and deservedly regained the prize in 2015.
Iveco’s two big supermarket customers, Asda and Tesco, have already opted for Daily vans with Hi-matic transmission – they prefer automatic systems because they cut out the clutch abuse drivers on multi-drop assignments dole out to manual gearbox vans.
Iveco’s UK product manager Martin Flach says the supermarkets order Daily chassis cabs and then get refrigerated bodies fitted by the conversion firm Solomons.
He says the other big fleet customer is vehicle hire company SHB, which takes Daily panel vans.
Flach reckons nearly all home delivery fleets will opt for Hi-matic vans over the six-speed manual alternative and says the technology also gives Iveco a chance to get the Daily into blue light sectors, which favour autos. Flach predicts that in a year’s time the system will be the default choice, with only a minority of customers specifying manual versions of the Daily.
The Hi-matic has a £1500 premium over manual versions but, as Flach puts it, this would represent the cost of having to fit just one new clutch. He adds the Hi-matic is also much easier to drive than manual models and so leaves drivers far more alert and aware of their surroundings. He expects Hi-matic vans to have higher residual values than manuals and urges RV specialist CAP not to be conservative in its forecasts.
Although Mercedes does offer a seven-speed auto with its Sprinter Flach acknowledges: “There is not much history out there.”
He points out that when automatic transmissions were introduced to HGVs the values were initially lower but then overtook those with manual gearboxes.
“It will take time for people to get used to it.” He says. “The used market is by nature conservative so it must mature before you get a positive answer.”
Flach reckons the Daily range is now more extensive than that of any rival: GVWs go from 3.5t to 7.5t but he says the availability of a version with a cavernous 19.6m3 load volume at 3.5t will attract some customers out of the heavier iterations.
At the other end of the scale, the smallest load box on offer is a comparatively dinky 7.0m3. Payloads go from 1185 to 1500kg.
Flach says that for 3.5t models the sweet spot appealing to most buyers is from 10.8m3 to 12.0m3 load volume with payloads of 1220kg to 1420kg. He believes this “prime area” could account for 60% of sales. Iveco shifted 2382 3.5t Daily vans in the first seven months of 2015, according to the SMMT, a healthy rise of 57% compared to the same period last year.
Volume is split roughly 50/50 between key accounts (large fleets) and small business sales, which go through the dealer network.
Flach says that while key accounts deliver volume and brand acceptance he maintains:
“More small customers choosing Iveco builds the brand better.”
This is a primary consideration for Iveco, which needs to build awareness of the 3.5t Daily in the van market and is why being recognised by What Van? is so important for the brand.
“The What Van? Award gives us an opportunity to get recognition and coverage in the media,” says Flach. “Others have now looked at the product and said: ‘This is good’. What Van?’s profile is good for Iveco and means customers will look at us when they wouldn’t have before.”
“We are not so well recognised as others so if we improve our retail share it’s best,” he adds.
Ironically, one of the main strengths of Iveco’s retail network is also a weakness when it comes to putting the brand on customers’ radars. Most of its outlets are on industrial estates where they have the space and facilities to service the manufacturers HGVs. The advantage is that these dealerships can offer van operators out of hours servicing but the downside is that they do not provide the sort of high street presence that brands such as Ford and Vauxhall take for granted.
“We give them the opening hours and can be sure we can fit in all shapes and sizes of vans,” says Flach but he admits Iveco is looking to add up to 30 more sites to its network of around 50 dealerships to improve access to sales and service points because “customers don’t want to travel so far”.
He explains that the manufacturer is aiming to establish a “sub-network” focused on the Daily van. Although this will not necessarily involve opening “glossy showrooms” it must meet customers’ sales and servicing requirements and is likely to see some authorised repairers taking on sales too, according to Flach.
“The aim is to get more sites selling Dailys,” he says.
As part of CNH Industrial, which itself comes under the Fiat Industrial umbrella, Flach says Iveco could partner with CNH’s Case and New Holland agricultural machinery dealerships and nor does he rule out the possibility of sharing sites with Fiat Professional.
Flach says Iveco is not trying to make the 3.5t Daily the cheapest van on the market and admits the brand can not compete with the likes of PSA Peugeot Citroen, Fiat or Vauxhall when it comes to offering discounts.
“We won’t throw everything at a deal to sell cheap,” says Flach.
“It doesn’t pay to sell the product where it’s not appropriate.”
Consequently, he says operators who drive their vans to the work site and leave them parked there all day do not require Dailys but for those needing vans for more arduous assignments then they fit the bill.
As a rear-wheel drive model he says the Daily competes with the Mercedes Sprinter and the RWD version of the Ford Transit.
The Sprinter is Mercedes’ biggest selling product – it is struggling to achieve the same impact with the mid-sized Vito, but Flach reckons the Daily could win some business at the expense of the Transit because, he argues, while Ford is performing strongly with the medium Transit Custom it has slipped back a little in the heavier weight bracket.
The visual highlight on Iveco’s stands at both the Hanover Commercial Vehicle Show in September 2014 and the UK’s Commercial Vehicle Show at the NEC in April was its Vision concept van.
The diesel/electric hybrid uses lightweight carbon fibres to increase payload and offers 360 degree visability from the cab thanks to a wraparound windscreen and a rear view camera displayed on a panoramic screen. The removal of the A-pillar has eliminated the resulting blind spot. Another feature is tyre pressures that automatically adjust to suit the load on board.
The dual energy concept is designed to use electric power in urban environments and switch to diesel for out of town hikes.
Flach says the use of light weight materials means the Vision can save fuel without being a full EV and he suggests the vehicle would appeal to operators who need to hit the maximum 3.5t weight “on the nail”.
But although the Vision does give clues as to features that could appear on forthcoming Iveco light commercial vehicles Flach admits its main function was to draw visitors to the stands.
“It acts as a magnet for the brand,” he says.
With the award winning new Daily beginning to make its presence felt in the marketplace, Iveco is confident it will continue to turn heads in the future.