Sector Analysis: Heavy vans

Date: Monday, November 05, 2012

The forthcoming two-tonne Transit is already casting its shadow over the sector, but that doesn’t mean the competition is standing still, as James Dallas discovers.
The two-tonne version of the Ford Transit bestrides the UK’s heavy van sector like a colossus and the next generation of the runaway market leader goes on sale next year.
For the first time Ford has clearly separated the heavy van from its smaller sibling, which is now badged the Transit Custom.
The new Transit, which made its public debut at the Hanover motor show in September, will be available with front-, all- or rear-wheel drive and in single cab, double cab and minibus modes.
Ford has developed the Transit as part of its One Ford product strategy for sale in six continents, including Europe and North America. For Europe the van will be powered by the manufacturer’s 2.2-litre TDCi diesel engine with ratings of 100hp, 125hp and 155hp. A six-speed manual transmission comes as standard.
Compared to the current Transit, Ford says load volume has increased 10% model-for-model across the new line-up with the largest Jumbo van boasting a load capacity of 15.1m3.
The Transit will be offered in three lengths and two roof-heights. Ford claims a new interior provides better stowage provisions, more shoulder and head room and improved visibility. Customers will be able to choose options such as Ford’s Sync voice-activated phone system with Emergency Assistance, a rear-view camera, cruise control and lane-departure warning.

Crafter sales rise

VW performs less strongly in the heavy van sector with the Crafter than it does in the medium and light van markets with the Transporter and Caddy respectively, but UK boss Alex Smith claims the brand upped sales by 25% in the first three quarters of the year in a sector that struggled overall. According to the SMMT, heavy van registrations dipped 15% year-on-year in the traditionally quiet month of August to 5449 units and were down 5% over the first eight months of the year to 85,224. VW sold 3493 Crafters in 2011.
Fiat Professional introduced a robotised transmission in the first half of this year on its 2.3-litre Ducato with power outputs of 130hp and 150hp. The system was previously only available on 3.0-litre Ducatos, and Fiat expects the lower- powered versions to particularly appeal to minibus operators.
The brand also extended its Tecnico specification to include
the Ducato 30 2.3-litre 130 Multijet SWB model. Tecnico versions include additional standard equipment such as aircon, front fog lights, Blue&Me with steering wheel-mounted controls, B&M TomTom Live navigator plus cradle, stop/start, reverse parking sensors and eco-drive software. Ducato Tecnico models can be ordered with metallic paint for
an extra £100. Promotional prices for Ducato Tecnico models (excluding VAT) are £13,995 for the 30 L1H1 and £16,995 for
the 35 L3H2. Fiat claims these prices enable customers to benefit from savings of up to £10,900 compared to list prices.

Conversions for Nissan

Nissan beefed up its heavy van portfolio this year by launching factory conversions of its NV400 chassis cab to meet European Whole Vehicle Type Approval laws. Nissan reckons conversions could account for up to 30% of NV400 sales.
Two years after the van went on sale, Renault has tweaked its Master range to improve efficiencies and upgrade kit levels. The M9T, Renault’s 2.3-litre dCi powerplant that comes with outputs of 100hp, 125hp and 150hp, powers the Master. The manufacturer has improved consumption by 3.8mpg to 41.5mpg on SL/SM dCi 125 Quickshift6 Euro5 versions. Consumption on the core dCi 125 engine has improved by 3.3mpg to 41.0mpg. CO2 emissions now start at 194g/km and are improved by an average 16g/km across the line-up. Renault achieved these savings through thermal management with an improved water circuit for faster starting and the introduction of new oil and power steering pumps, low fuel consumption tyres and new gearbox lubricant. Interior comfort has been enhanced with a range of better-equipped radios while Bluetooth and USB connectivity are now standard. Flagship Sport derivatives come with a CD player and MP3 playback as well as a separate display. Air suspension is now optional on all FWD Masters, apart from the 2.8-tonne GVW version, for £2000, excluding VAT.

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