Sector Analysis: Light vans

Date: Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Collaborations are key in a sector that is becoming increasingly competitive as operators look to improve efficiencies. James Dallas reports
The impending debut of Mercedes-Benz in the light van sector is hogging the headlines as the Citan’s arrival in UK showrooms in January draws ever nearer.
The manufacturer has kept the model, based on the Renault Kangoo, in the spotlight thanks to a series of shrewdly timed media events including a static unveiling on the eve of the Amsterdam commercial vehicle show in April. Mercedes did not display the Citan at the event itself, but managed to steal the show all the same. A UK reveal of the urban van to press and industry bodies followed in June.
The Citan will finally make its public debut at the Hanover CV Show in September.
From launch the van will be available with three turbo-diesel engines with power outputs of 75, 90 and 110hp and a petrol engine producing 114hp. It will be offered as a panel van, a combi and a crew van and is up for grabs in three lengths – compact, standard and long. The max payload will be 800kg.
Mercedes’ Blue Efficiency economy package is standard on petrol models and optional on diesels. It includes stop/start, low rolling-resistance tyres and a battery management system. Merc has big plans for its new baby, and reckons the jump in sales the Citan will trigger will see the brand leapfrog Vauxhall and VW to become the second-biggest seller in the UK LCV market behind Ford by 2016.
The biggest event in the light van sector this year has been Vauxhall’s launch of its new Combo, which went on sale in February. Like the Citan, it is the result of a collaboration, with the donor vehicle this time being the Fiat Doblo.
The Combo is offered with two wheelbases, two heights, two gross vehicle weights (2.0 and 2.3 tonnes) two trim levels (Combo and Sportive) and currently with a choice of four common-rail diesel engines ranging from 90hp 1.3 to 135hp 2.0. Top payload is a meaty one tonne, and prices, excluding VAT, range from £14,703 to £18,203.
Vauxhall confirmed at the CV Show in April that it would add a petrol engine to the Combo line-up aimed at urban operators concerned about diesel particulate filters becoming blocked through constant city use, which could lead to more serious engine damage. The 1.4-litre 95hp unit is available in L1H1 and L2H1 body types. It includes stop/start tech and achieves CO2 of 163g/km and fuel consumption of 40.3mpg on the combined cycle, according to Vauxhall.
Steve Bryant, Vauxhall’s CV brand manager, says: “Certain Vauxhall customers want the option of a petrol engine especially with respect to both current fuel prices and the operator’s specific working environment.”
With the expansion of the Combo range Vauxhall is to withdraw the Astravan when the current model run comes to an end next year. Sales of the car-derived van have fallen from a high of 10,000 a year to about 3000, and the fact that its popularity was confined to the UK means it is no longer viable.
Fiat displayed a prototype Doblo Maxi XL at the CV Show prior to its anticipated introduction later this year. The long-wheelbase, high-roof model features a 5.0m3 load space and 1.0-tonne payload.
As part of Citroen’s Ready to Run conversion scheme, one of the brand’s partners, Supertrucks, has upgraded the glass-carrying racks for the facelifted Berlingo to improve aerodynamics.
Peugeot has added an All Terrain Vehicle (ATV) grip-control technology version to its facelifted Partner van line-up. The Partner comes in three trim levels – S, SE and Professional – and ATV adds £600 to the price tag, which starts at £12,445. ATV derivatives feature raised suspension, Michelin Agil tyres and a grip-control dial enabling the driver to match the ESP to the conditions by selecting mud, snow or sand functions.
Peugeot has also produced a mock-up of the Electric Partner, which it intends to bring to market next year.

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