New and facelifted models are battling it out for supremacy in a highly competitive sector, as James Dallas reports
For manufacturers that do not command high volumes with their large and medium-sized product, the light van sector is particularly important in keeping them on customers’ radars.
Both the PSA brands, Peugeot and Citroen, fall into this bracket, and last year they dominated the segment.
The Peugeot Partner led the way, recording remarkable sales growth of 46.4% in shifting 16,636 units, according to the Society of motor manufacturers and Traders. This was enough to push Citroen’s berlingo into second place on 15,349 – up 13.4% on 2013.
This year, the pair have launched facelifted versions of their respective models, which are in effect the same thing under the skin, and so far they have prevented the Ford juggernaut from marching to the front of the sector with its new Transit Connect.
In 2014, the Connect, which was then the new kid on the block, posted 12,437 sales in what was its first full year. In the first nine months of this year, the model, which we crowned the What Van? Light van of the Year 2015, has clocked up sales of 11,233, according to the SMMT, narrowly behind the Partner’s 12,037, which has again swapped places with the Berlingo (13,382). In fourth spot was the volkswagen Caddy on 8322, followed distantly by the Vauxhall Combo on 4953.Judged on the MMT numbers, the VW Caddy has recovered well from 2014 – when sales slumped 27% to 9719 for the full-year – with 2015 volumes boosted by the renewal of a major fleet deal with british Gas. The fourth- generation van arrived in UK showrooms in September.
But going forward, the outlook for the new Caddy could be clouded by the diesel engine emissions scandal in which its manufacturer is embroiled. This, to say the least, will be frustrating for vW because the model, which is the brand’s second-strongest seller behind the medium-sized Transporter, had made a good first impression, despite some misgivings over its conservative styling. It retains the manufacturer’s traditional virtues of rock-solid build quality and classy refinement and delivers drivability now on a par with the sector’s best: the Transit Connect.
VW insists euro6 engines are not implicated in the emissions debacle, but two
of the euro5 units in the new Caddy from launch, the 1.6- litre with outputs of 75hp and 102hp and the 140hp 2.0-litre, could be involved.
Some models in the light van sector come in at just under 2.0t, but the majority weigh from 2.0t to 2.5t. According to the SMMT, overall sales in this category of the market grew by a little under 2% inSeptember year-on-year to 8037. This was slower than growth in 2015 overall – in the first three-quarters of the year, volumes increased by 4.5% to 44,602 units.
With more stock on offer at auction, especially following the September plate-change, Jayson Whittington, Cv manager of Glass’s Guide, says it is now a buyer’s market with traders able to cherry-pick the best examples while the worst ones contribute to the growing number of re- runs, which often appear at more than one auction site before finding a home.
Whittington notes that basic current-shape 90hp 1.3 CDTi vauxhall Combo models are attracting little interest from buyers, but that older-shape derivatives continue to be considered better value for money, particularly in Se trim. Current-shape Doblo Cargos fair a little better, says Whittington, but still struggle to hit Guide prices.
There was little indication in September as to how the emissions saga would affect volkswagen’s residual values, but Whittington says increased numbers of Caddy vans were seen at auction during the course of the month, with many coming out of rental contracts. While these units have been moving on swiftly, most have been achieving values in line with Glass’s lower Guide prices, according to Whittington.
He adds that low-mileage examples of the Caddy maxi have also been gaining attention, but, again, only achieving lower Guide values.
Whittington says clean and tidy Transit Connects have been in short supply and values for poor-condition examples have weakened. Likewise, renault Kangoo values continue to fluctuate, with only mint- condition vans with low
mileage and full service history attracting top-value bids.