The small van sector lagged behind last year but is now keeping pace with the rest of the market as the Ford Courier starts to find its feet, James Dallas reports
With all the launch activity engulfing other sectors of the light commercial vehicle industry over the last year or so the small van category has tended to slip under the radar.
But like the rest of the market the sector that particularly appeals to urban operators and owner-drivers such as the fabled butcher, baker and candlestick maker (not to mention florists) has been enjoying a resurgence, albeit belatedly compared to other market sectors, as the economic recovery has gathered pace.
According to the SMMT, sales of vans weighing less than 2.0-tonnes edged up by 3.4% year-on-year in June to reach 4205 units. During the first half of the year volume increased by almost 15% to 22,631 compared to the corresponding period in 2014.
This was welcome news because last year sales of sub-2t vans actually dipped by 5% from 41,757 the previous year to 39,535, which might have had something to do with Mini ending its brief flirtation with the LCV market in the shape of its Clubvan.
But, while not niche, the small van sector does not host any of the major volume players and in 2014 the only model to make it into the year’s chart of the 25 best-sellers was the Ford Fiesta Van…..at number 25. It notched up 4044 sales, a 6.6% year-on-year rise to give it a market share of 1.3%. This is the sort of annual sales Vauxhall is targeting with its third generation Corsavan, which came to market in March, having sold 2400 units of the previous generation model when it was on run out last year.
Like the Corsavan, the car-derived Fiesta Van belongs to the old school of small vans and now lines up in the Ford range alongside the Transit Courier (introduced in July 2014), which has joined the new wave of compact cubed city vans launched in 2008, consisting of the Citroen Nemo, Peugeot Bipper and Fiat Fiorino, that have pure LCV DNA. This is where the future lies, according to the manufacturer.
In the first half of the year sales of the Courier and Fiesta Van were running neck and neck at around 2250 apiece, but a spokesman made clear that going forward, and once dealers have got used to selling it - “Courier is where the growth is”.
The brand is confident it will hit 5000 sales of the Courier for the full year. Fiat Professional, which cannot hope to compete with the blue oval’s mighty retail operation in terms of volume, has professed itself happy to see Ford enter the fray as it will raise the profile of the sector overall. Fiat Professional is to introduce a facelifted Fiorino in 2016. Like the rest of the Fiat Professional line-up, the Fiorino now gets a four year/120,000 mile warranty.
There is no news yet as to when or whether Citroen will revise its Nemo but in March it began offering a Grip Control option pack with the van to increase the vehicle’s traction for light off-road assignments.
For £630 excluding VAT, the grip control package includes an Intelligent Traction Control system, raised suspension, an under engine protection tray, front and rear mud flaps, door sill protection and deeper side rubbing strips.
Citroen has dropped the automated manual transmission from the Nemo range, so all versions are now five-speed manual. It has also made a nearside sliding load door a standard feature on the entry-level HDi 75 manual X model.
Peugeot has no news as to when it will facelift its Bipper but a spokesman expects the brand to follow suit once Fiat has updated its Fiorino – The PSA models are built alongside the Fiorino in Turkey.
When it comes to pre-owned small vans, Glass’s Guide’s CV editor George Alexander says Citroen Nemo, Peugeot Bipper and Fiat Fiorino vans in higher specification attract Trade Guide prices with ease while the old stalwarts, the Fiesta Van and Corsavan still have no difficulty finding new homes at decent prices.