The pick-up sector is the place to be seen in the light commercial vehicle market as we head into 2016 with an unprecedented number of models either waiting in the wings to make their entrances or having already gone on sale.
The UK pick-up market is in rude health, with sales up by more than 20% in 2015 to around 40,000 units.
But we should not flatter ourselves that the domestic market is the main attraction for the manufacturers crowding into the segment.
It is the emerging markets in South America and the middle east that are the real draw.
Fiat Professional is to launch its Fullback pick-up truck (based on Mitsubishi’s Series 5 L200) in the autumn and Dominico Gostoli, the brand’s head of EMEA (Europe, the Middle East and Africa) says the company’s status as a division of the CNH industrial conglomerate (itself owned by Fiat Industrial), which has a massive presence in the global construction industry, will provide a ready-made market for the Fullback – especially in the Middle East.
Another newcomer to the pick-up sector, Renault, which will introduce its debut model, based on alliance partner Nissan’s Navara, in the second half of the year, says it will build the vehicles destined for the burgeoning Latin American market at its plant in Cordoba, Argentina, while European-bound models will be assembled at Nissan’s facility in Barcelona, Spain.
By 2020 this plant will also be rolling out pick-up trucks bearing the three-pointed star of Mercedes-Benz, which will also be based on the Nissan Navara.
In the UK, demand is stronger for more refined, dual purpose vehicles with the overwhelming preference being for double-cab derivatives.
Mitsubishi, which did much to write the blueprint for the lifestyle pick-up with its L200 Series 3, which ran for a decade from 1996, expects the top of the range Barbarian and Warrior specifications to dominate sales of the Series 5 truck.
The latest L200 was the first of the new wave of pick-ups to break cover, it went on sale in September. It is more refined than its predecessor and has a new engine – a 2.4-litre unit with outputs of 151hp and 178hp. Not surprisingly the new powertrain will also serve the Fiat Fullback.
Nissan’s new NP300 Navara arrived in showrooms in January carrying a weight of expectation as it will provide the basis for the aforementioned debuts from Renault and Mercedes. The Renault version will most likely retain the ‘Alaskan’ name of the concept, which the brand says already constitutes 80% of the production truck.
Nissan has borrowed heavily from its passenger-carrying SUVs the Xtrail and Qashqai to boost interior comfort and refinement.
The 2.3-litre engine with outputs of 160 and 190hp will also power the Renault and most likely, the Mercedes too.
Ford’s facelifted Ranger also arrived at the start of 2016. Unlike some rivals it is available in regular, super and double-cab formats. The Navara comes in King and double-cab guises and, while Mitsubishi has promised more bodystyles in future, for now the L200 is double-cab only.
VW, which is expected to reveal a revised Amarok at the CV Show in April, only produces its pick-up in double-cab format.
With Toyota also set to unveil a new-engined Hilux this year, although details remain scarce, Isuzu’s rugged and capable D-max – a truck that has muscled itself centre stage in recent years, could be pushed to the sidelines before a replacement arrives in 2017, despite the addition late last year of the Fury special edition.
Likewise Ssangyong’s Korando Sports pick-up, now with a 1.0-tonne payload, could also be marginalised and spare a thought for Great Wall, whose basic, value proposition Steed does not seem to have whet too many operator appetites.
High specification remains key in the used market. John Watts, senior editor commercial vehicles for CAP, says: “Because many of these vehicles are dual usage, the models that are car-like attain significantly higher values than those that are not,” he explains.
“A typical lifestyle double-cab version will have metallic paint, leather upholstery, climate control and plenty of ‘bling’ to set it apart from the more mundane ‘work’ versions. Many also have aftermarket hard-tops fitted to give greater security and weather protection for the payload.”
Watts forecast that models bringing new features to the sector, such as the multi-link rear suspension on the Navara, “which transforms the ride”, would trigger an uplift in residual values.
Watts does not expect the arrival of new models from Renault, Fiat and Mercedes to grow the pick-up beyond its 10% market share so says the new players will fight for volume through offering market support. Although based on existing vehicles, Watts says only the Mercedes truck will be classed as a premium model and warns:
“The danger is that when the used buyer has increased choice values usually suffer.”
|Pick-ups: What’s on sale? What’s coming and when?|
|Mitsubishi L200 Series 5: Available now (since September 2015)|
|Nissan Navara NP300: Available now (January 2016)|
|Ford Ranger: Available now (January 2016)|
|Toyota Hilux: On sale mid-2016|
|VW Amarok: April 2016|
|Fiat Professional Fullback: Q3 2016|
|Renault Alaskan (concept name): January 2017|
|Mercedes-Benz (GLT?): 2017-2020|
|Isuzu D-max: 2017|