The new van market is reaching new highs in 2015 and the mid-sized sector is on the crest of the wave, James Dallas reports
The new light commercial vehicle market surged to a record high in the first six months of 2015 and the medium van segment led the charge.
According to the SMMT, sales of vans weighing from 2.5t to 3.5t, which covers medium and large vans, rose by 22% to 106,832 in the half-year compared with the same period in 2014. In June, numbers were up by 24% to 21,693 in the same weight category.
The medium van sector includes many of the overall market’s big hitters, including the UK’s biggest-selling LCV, the Ford Transit Custom.
Last year, Ford sold 33,516 Customs, giving the model a 10.4% market share. The second most popular mid-sized van was the Vauxhall Vivaro, which shifted 19,364 units, and these two were joined in the top 10 sellers list by the VW Transporter and the Renault Trafic.
The excellent Transit Custom’s dominance of the market is illustrated by the fact that sales hit 24,514 in the first half of the year, according to Ford’s own figures, compared with 15,035 in the same period in 2014. The van has been widely credited with raising the bar for quality and functionality, and captured the What Van? Van of the Year Award in both 2013 and 2014.
Nevertheless, there is currently a competitive vibrancy to the medium van segment, which is accountable in no small measure to its youthfulness. The Custom arrived in November 2012 and was followed by the Vivaro and Trafic in the third quarter of last year and then the Mercedes Vito in April 2015, following its appearance at the Commercial Vehicle Show in Birmingham’s NEC. The next heavyweight to join the fray will be the new Volkswagen Transporter – the T6 goes on sale in September.
With its strong UK heritage – the Luton-built Vauxhall model was unveiled with a Union Jack backdrop at the 2014 CV Show – the Vivaro has plenty of clout in the domestic fleet sector. This was recently illustrated with the delivery of 2500 90hp L1H1 vans to British Telecom. The manufacturer holds preferred-supplier status with BT Fleet and has provided more than 20,000 vehicles for the company in the past decade. As part of their engagement in the fleet deal, the BT engineers were able to visit Vauxhall’s Luton plant to see the Vivaro being made, and the plant also organised for the group to see the 500th van from their order roll off the production line.
The Vivaro, of course, owes much of its success to its Gallic donor vehicle, the Renault Trafic. Apart from their brand-specific front ends, it’s hard to separate the vans, and as a result they shared the What Van? Medium Van of the Year Award for 2015.
Like Vauxhall, Renault is enjoying a resurgence in the UK, with sales up 21% in the first six months of the year to 11,169, and the Trafic accounts for around one in two of the brand’s van sales.
Early this year, Renault supplemented the line-up with a minibus version. The Trafic Passenger comes with three rows of seats, although customers can delete the third row to create more storage space. It is available in short- and long-wheelbase formats with prices starting at £20,145 and rising to £25,345 excluding VAT.
In 2016, Fiat Professional is set to replace its Scudo medium van with a model that will result from a partnership with Renault, having terminated its agreement with PSA, which saw the Scudo produced alongside the Citroen Dispatch and Peugeot Expert.
Mercedes has tasked its new Vito with increasing the brand’s share in a sector where it underperforms compared with the Sprinter in the large van segment. Last year, the Vito was the fifth best-seller in the sector on 4859 units – a long way short of the Trafic in fourth place, which shifted 9191 units. It has its work cut out to make up the ground – the Vito is a well put together and competent van but it perhaps lacks some of the panache and innovation adopted by the Custom, Trafic and Vivaro.
Volkswagen’s T6 is likely to offer more of a threat to the sector leaders when it arrives in the autumn with prices starting from £17,745 to £31,275, excluding VAT.