Sector Analysis: Heavy vans

Date: Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Sales of heavy LCVs faltered at the start of the year after a strong 2011. James Dallas  looks at the models and innovations that could stimulate demand during 2012
The heavy van sector is the biggest in the UK’s commercial vehicle segment and often taken to be a barometer of the nation’s economic health.
If so, last year’s sales figures were encouraging. According to the SMMT, registrations of vans weighing 2.5-3.5 tonnes increased by just over 17% to 147,840 units – the second year of growth following 2009’s low point.
As usual the Ford Transit led the way with volumes rocketing by 28% to 26,500, outselling its nearest rival, the Mercedes Sprinter, by almost two-to-one.
However, the start of 2012 was less positive as the economic gloom stubbornly refused to lift. Heavy van sales in the first two months of the year slumped by 17.5% to 12,700.
Ford unveiled the short-wheelbase version of its new , mid-sized, Transit at the Commercial Vehicle Show in April, but we’ll have to wait until later this year to see the heavyweight versions of the market leader..
But we’ve got a good idea of the engines that will power the line-up. Ford says the new Transit will use the Euro5 drivetrains introduced into the current model in the last quarter of 2011. A Duratorq 2.2-litre TDCi will be available with power outputs of 100, 125, 140 and 155hp for both front- and rear-wheel drive models. Currently, the 155hp is only offered in rear-wheel drive vans.
Volkswagen revamped its Crafter last year, introducing the 2.0-litre TDI engine seen across the rest of its line-up to the heavy van instead of the old 2.5 diesel unit.

The brand has now raised the possibility of bringing its 163hp Crafter 4Motion to the UK. The model was developed in conjunction with Austrian four-wheel drive specialist Achleitner, which
believes it could find a niche market with forestry and utility companies as well as with emergency services. The system offers permanent all-wheel drive evenly distributed to both axles with a differential lock as standard in the transfer gearbox and on the rear axle.
Mercedes recently announced that it has retained its contract, won in 2009, as the sole supplier of commercial vehicles to HSS Hire.
HSS’s latest consignment consists of 170 Sprinter 313CDI long chassis cabs.

Conversions

Vauxhall exhibited its factory- finished Movano conversions at the CV Show. Highlights included the tipper, which comes with either a chassis or crew cab and features a five-stage under-floor ram and a 50° tipping angle powered by a 2kW electro- hydraulic pack connected to a remote, hand-held control. The conversion market is becoming increasingly competitive, with Renault and Nissan also among those looking for a larger slice.


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