The light commercial vehicle sector may have declined in 2017 but pick-up buyers didn’t seem to notice. James Dallas reports
The overall market for light commercial vehicles may have entered a decline but the pick-up sector has generally remained immune to the downturn.
The 2.3% year-on-year fall in January to 3,359 was a rare exception to the rule and despite this dip the UK’s most popular pick-up truck, the Ford Ranger, was the nation’s fourth best-selling LCV for the month with 1,144 registrations, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).
In stark contrast, the niche 4x4 segment has shown no such resilience – in January it plummeted 33% with only 36 models finding homes.
In 2017 as a whole the pick-up sector bucked the trend of a market that fell 3.6% in total by expanding by 7.8% to 51,415 units.
Sales of 4x4 vans, meanwhile, crashed from 4,319 in 2016 to just 443 last year, which was largely due to the departure of the Land Rover Defender from the scene, and it would appear as though it is pick-ups, rather than other 4x4 models, that are taking up the slack caused by the exit of this icon.
Despite the low volumes in the UK manufacturers still find it worth their while to produce 4x4 vans because most work on global platforms and supply larger markets elsewhere.
Volkswagen added 4Motion van and chassis cab CR35 models to its Crafter range in September with manual transmission, priced from £33,150 excluding VAT, and will introduce an auto derivative in the fourth quarter of 2018.
Having taken production of the Crafter in-house Volkswagen claims it is now easier to build a 4x4 model. The brand acknowledges it will attract more demand in other markets but claims it will attract customers in remote areas in the UK, such as utility companies, mountain ambulance services and forestry commissions.
The third generation of Mercedes’ Sprinter large LCV will be available in 4x4 panel van, chassis and pick-up bodystyles from June, but it is the arrival of the brand’s debut pick-up truck, the X-Class, in January that is set to cause the bigger splash in the off-road market, despite Mercedes setting what looks like a modest first-year sales target of 2,500. To put this in perspective, Ford sold 13,044 Rangers in 2017, according to the SMMT, and Nissan shifted 10,815 examples of its Navara (number two in the sector), upon which the X-Class is based.
Another model built on the Navara platform, however, Renault’s Alaskan, is not now likely to come to the UK. It had been set to go on sale at the end of last year but Renault pulled the plug on the launch due to concerns over the weakening of the pound against the euro hitting profitability.
The PSA Group, which owns Peugeot, Citroen and Vauxhall, has confirmed it will put a pick-up into production by 2020 in collaboration with Chinese manufacturer ChangAn Automotive, with the vehicle being built in a dedicated light commercial vehicle plant in China. As yet there are no details as to where PSA will market the vehicle.
What we can expect to see soon is Ssangyong’s new Musso pick-up truck, based on the Rexton SUV, which will go on sale in mid-2018.
On sale in May is Volkswagen’s new entry-level Amarok. The 161hp iteration of VW’s 3.0-litre V6 diesel engine will join the existing 201hp and 221hp versions in the range and will be available only in base Trendline trim.
The model is priced at £24,510 excluding VAT, which means it becomes the cheapest Amarok on sale.