Sector Analysis: Medium Vans

Date: Thursday, April 21, 2011

This month we continue our sector-by-sector analysis of the commercial vehicle market by focusing on medium vans, second in terms of volume only to the heavy van market. James Dallas reports

The medium van sector is dominated by the Ford Transit.
In 2010 it led the way with 19,705 sales, according to the SMMT, more than 8000 units clear of the VW Transporter in second spot and more than 20% ahead of its own sales total for the previous year.  Ford has already indicated that it expects further growth in the market in 2011, a prediction that was reinforced by a 49% rise year-on-year in January.


The brand is to unveil the Euro5 version of the Transit at the Commercial Vehicle Show in April and says all Transits will have Euro5 engines as standard later this year.  “The aim is to give customers improved fuel economy and lower emissions,” it says.


Euro5 engines include a diesel particulate filter (DPF) with vapouriser technology that Ford claims collects more than 95% of engine soot emissions. When the DPF is full, the vapouriser heats it to 600°C to turn the soot into CO2 and water, in a process known as a regeneration cycle.


Ford says demand is growing for the 1.0-tonne Econetic Transit, which it claims cuts mpg and CO2 by 10%. The new 260 SWB Econetic will deliver fuel savings of £1077 over 80,000 miles compared with its Euro4 predecessor, the brand says.


VW revamped the Transporter in March last year and the van set the design blueprint for the Caddy and Amarok that followed. Within the next two months the brand expects to launch the top-of-the range Transporter Sportline. Also possibly on its way to the UK is a version of the Edition 25, a special edition van displayed in Hanover last year to celebrate the 25th anniversary of VW’s Multivan – badged the Caravelle in the UK. The Multivan Edition 25 is based on a top-spec Caravelle and features a matt-black roof, black18-inch alloys and black exterior trimmings such as door handles, B-pillar and sills. Leather steering wheel, eight-speaker stereo and DAB radio adorned the Hanover show van as well as standard kit including lane-change assist and auto-dimming rear view mirror.


Used Transporters generally tend to retain the sector’s strongest residual values alongside the Mercedes Vito.


In February 2011 Vauxhall added two new Luton-built Ecoflex Vivaros to its line-up in a move to beef-up its green credentials.


The 2.0-litre CDTi 90hp and the 2.0-litre CDTi 115hp vans both produce CO2 of 185g/km and have payloads of up to 1254kg.

Vauxhall’s commercial vehicle brand manager, Steve Bryant, acknowledges that green credentials are moving up the agenda for fleet operators looking to reduce their carbon footprints, and claims the Ecoflex programme will get customers’ attention.

“The Ecoflex badge clearly identifies to our customers the lowest CO2 model for each vehicle in our range,” he says.

Renault facelifted its mid-sized van the Trafic, which is built on the same platform as the Vivaro, in July 2010. The manufacturer added Bluetooth and Carminat TomTom satnav as standard on the Phase 3 Trafic and made climate control available as an option. The Phase 3 range includes 42 versions, covering short- and long-wheelbase options, low- and high-roof configurations and load volumes ranging from 5.0cu/m to 8.4cu/m. The line-up is offered with 90, 115 or 150hp diesel powertrains and six-speed manual gearboxes as standard, bar the automated manual Quickshift6 versions. More recently Renault has added the entry-level Freeway to the line-up with a choice of SL27 dCi 90 and dCi 115hp engines.


The Trafic is Renault’s best-selling van in the UK and was the ninth biggest-seller in the UK market overall last year with 7378 units shifted – a rise of 35% year-on-year.


Mercedes introduced its revised Vito at the end of last year. It features new Euro5 engines bequeathed from its big brother,


the Sprinter, and is now 15% more fuel-efficient as well as commanding more power and torque. The van’s payload capacity has increased by 100kg across the line-up and tops out at 1330kg. As ever, brand cache and high build quality ensure good value at remarketing time.
The Vito is powered by three 2.1-litre common-rail diesel units producing 95, 136 and 163hp respectively. At the top of the range is the 122CDi with a 3.0-litre V6 diesel developing 224hp.


Mercedes is to unveil its battery-powered Vito E-Cell at the Commercial Vehicle Show. Small numbers this year will be targeted at inner-city fleets in the UK. The E-Cell has a range of 80 miles and a top speed of 50mph. It is fitted with lithium-ion batteries.


Fiat will continue to sell Euro4 versions of its Scudo this year alongside the 2.0-litre Multijet 163hp Euro5 engine it has now introduced. The company claims the new engine not only delivers higher output and torque but also significantly cuts fuel consumption and emissions. It says the Euro5 engine on a Scudo L2H1 12Q achieves savings of at least £300 a year in fuel compared with the old 2.0-litre Multijet 120hp unit – based on 30,000 miles a year. The whole range has benefited since January 2011 from three years roadside assistance as standard.


Peugeot claims it is on course to meet the European Commission’s emission targets and says the phasing in of Euro5 FAP (exhaust particle filter) engines across its Expert medium van line-up will further reduce tailpipe emissions.


As part of its Business Class programme, Citroen has launched a limited edition Dispatch Tradesman into its Ready to Work scheme, which provides vans for adaption to the specific needs of operators.


Based on the Dispatch HDi 90 manual L1H1, just 200 models will be made. Additional features include: roof bars, anti-slip load compartment flooring, polypropylene load lining kit, front fog lights, full steel bulkhead and Arctic Steel metallic paint. The Dispatch Tradesman is priced £16,385 excluding VAT. Citroen claims this price is just £665 more than the model on which it is based but with £1000 worth of extra kit.


The brand will roll out Euro5 versions in the third quarter.

The used view

George Alexander, chief commercial vehicle editor of Glass’s Guide, says the used market is awash with Trafic, Vivaro and Nissan Primastar vans with only the best examples achieving guide trade prices. The numbers of late-shape Scudo, Expert and Dispatch vans at auction have eased but this has not sparked a rise in interest from either trade or retail buyers, according to Alexander. In contrast, clean examples of the previous generations of these vans are seen as reliable workhorses and generally achieve Guide trade price.


The collapse of various rental and service contract companies in recent months has seen a flood of Transit 280s enter the marketplace, leading to an oversupply that has seen poor examples struggle, although tidy vans are selling strongly enough. Alexander says good quality Vitos continue to attract top prices, while VW’s Transporter continues to perform strongly at auction with age no deterrent and good condition vans hitting ‘guide’ easily.



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