The pick-up market has recorded the most striking growth of any LCV category within the last couple of years.
In 2016, sales rose 17.6% to 47,715, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, as demand for double-cab lifestyle models continued to drive up volume.
The contrast to the tiny 4x4 sector could not be more stark – registrations dropped by more than 50% to 4,319 last year compared with 2015, mainly due to Land Rover calling time on its Defender. The trend has accelerated this year with sales practically falling off the edge of a cliff in the first two months of 2017 – down 94% to a paltry 71 units. But pick-up registrations also stagnated in February, remaining exactly the same as 12 months ago, on 1,350 units, although they were up by a healthy 19% in the year-to-date on 4,789.
Ford stormed to the top of the pick-up sales table in 2016 by registering 13,292 Rangers –
well clear of the second-placed Nissan Navara on 9,574 and the Mitsubishi L200 on 8,223. Last year’s table topper, the Toyota Hilux, dropped to fourth place on 6,504 units, but according to LCV product manager Gareth Matthews, the brand endured a two-month period with no supply before the eighth-generation truck arrived following the run-out of its predecessor.
The Isuzu D-max slipped a place to fifth in the sales chart last year, with numbers down 8% to 5,718, but the brand will be confident the launch of its new model in May will provide an uplift. Isuzu has downsized the engine in its forthcoming truck to a 1.9-litre turbo-diesel compared with the outgoing 2.5-litre powertrain.
But the firm claims it retains the same 164hp output as the larger lump, and says the truck can still tow up to 3.5t. What’s more, Isuzu points out that the new D-max will be the only pick-up on the market that does not require AdBlue to meet the Euro6 emissions standard.
The truck retains the five-year/125,000-mile warranty that is still the most comprehensive on offer, although Toyota and Nissan do provide five-year/100,000-mile packages for the Hilux and Navara, respectively. The D-max, together with the Hilux, the Ranger and the L200, is available in a full range of single-, extended- and double-cab formats.
Other brands, such as VW with its brazenly upmarket Amarok, Ssangyong with its Musso and Fiat Professional with the Fullback, cater only for the double-cab market, while Nissan produces a King-cab (extended-cab) but no single-cab version of the Navara.
There have been murmurings within the industry that a removal of the VAT tax break, together with the possibility that CO2 could be brought into play rather than a flat fee for tax purposes, would rip the bottom out of the market by instantly preventing double-cabs from representing an economically attractive alternative to large SUVs.
This is a potential eventuality that has not escaped Toyota’s Matthews.
He notes that currently double-cabs are bought as company vehicles for private use. As a
result “the market is skewed towards the high end”.
Matthews argues that if the tide turns against lifestyle models Toyota would still be well placed due to its strength in the workhorse pick-up fleets where single-cab models reside.
“We do base-grade pick-ups – a significant number into utilitarian fleets. These would remain as commercial vehicles,” he claims.
But for the time being double-cab dominance continues. At the Geneva motor show in March Fiat introduced the Fullback Cross, a flagship lifestyle version, Mercedes gave an airing to its X-Class before it goes on sale in 2018, and Renault displayed its Alaskan.
Meanwhile, the big news in the 4x4 sector is Ford’s introduction in February of its Transit equipped with Intelligent AWD – available on 130hp and 170hp 2.0 variants. Prices start from £33,055 excluding VAT.
Ford Transit AWD - Feb 2017
Isuzu D-Max - April 2017
Fiat Fullback Cross - July 2017
Renault Alaskan - Q3 2017 (estimated)
Mercedes X-Cross - Jan 2018