The pick-up segment has led the way in a recovering light commercial vehicle market this year. James Dallas looks at the latest trends
Despite a late summer slow down, when the market overall took a dip, the pick-up division has been easily the most buoyant in the new light commercial vehicle sector this year.
According to the SMMT, registrations were up by more than 30% in the first seven months of the year to 17,000 units.
It is to be hoped such strong growth lends credence to the cautious predictions of an economic recovery – particularly in the housebuilding market.
A raft of new models has swelled the sector in recent years and some of these are now making their mark. Volkswagen, for example, claims customer deliveries of its Amarok increased by 80% in the first half of 2013. Between January and August sales reached 1550 compared to 840 in the whole of 2012.
In June VW launched a special edition of its Amarok pick-up truck with a production run limited to 300 units in the UK.
The Amarok Edition is based on the mid-range Trendline specification but includes an extra £3400 worth of kit, which, the brand claimed, represents a customer saving of £2000.
The new model gets 18-inch Durban alloys, a black side step, black styling bars across the load area, rear privacy glass and special edition decals.
Front and rear parking sensors, a protective cover for the load bay, interior floor mats, Bluetooth and sat nav are standard fits.
The Amarok Edition is powered by VW’s flagship 2.0-litre BiTDI 180hp engine with either six-speed manual (£22,495 ex VAT) or eight-speed automatic (£24,225 ex VAT) transmission.
It comes in black with silver door mirrors or silver with black door mirrors.
Mitsubishi’s L200 is an enduringly popular veteran of the pick-up sector. It has also enjoyed a successful year with sales up 20% on 2012. The brand claims the L200 is the best seller in the retail segment, which is predominantly made up of owner-drivers. Of 3341 models sold to the end of August, two thirds went to retail buyers.
At the Geneva Motor Show in February Mitsubishi gave a glimpse of a possible future development by showcasing a concept electric/diesel hybrid pick-up – the GR-HEV. Currently, however, the manufacturer admits there are no plans to bring it to the UK.
The Toyota Hilux, which is the market leader with, it claims, a 27% share of the pick-up sector, saw corporate business drive up sales by 15% in the first eight months of the year to 4804 units.
Toyota has no plans to change the Hilux line-up, which consists of two engines (2.5 and 3.0-litre diesels) and single, extra and double cab versions, but a spokesman for the brand told What Van? model name changes are set to be announced in the new year.
Pretender to the throne Isuzu has increased the maximum braked towing capacity of its 4x4 D-Max pick-up models by 500kg to a joint class-leading 3.5-tonnes – on a par with the Ford Ranger, which Ford registered with a 3.5-tonne braked trailer weight in March.
Isuzu says the increase was made to satisfy customer demand for extra capacity. The new certification applies to models registered in the UK from July and Isuzu claims it confirms the D-max as the “most capable pick-up in the segment”.
In September Isuzu made its D-Max Eiger available for the same price as the manual version - £19,249, excluding VAT, a saving of £1000. The manufacturer says the offer will run until current stocks sell out.
Ford claims Ranger sales almost doubled in the year to August to 2620, giving the vehicle a 15% share of the pick-up market.
Budget Chinese brand Great Wall has consolidated its reputation for affordability by introducing a six-year/ 125,000 mile warranty on its double-cab Steed pick-up. The extended warranty comprises the three- year/60,000 mile manufacturer warranty plus a further three year/125,000 mile powertrain extended warranty provided by Great Motor Distributors UK.
The deal trumps the five-year cover offered by rivals Isuzu and Mitsubishi.
Auto Styling Truckman, the West Midlands-based accessory manufacturer that specialises in making hard top covers for pick-up truck load bays, has doubled its manufacturing capacity with a £375,000 investment in a new production facility at its Brierly Hill HQ, which will see its workforce expand from 29 to 45 over the next year.
The firm builds hard tops for all the major pick-up brands but the first components produced at the expanded plant will be fitted to Isuzu D-max models as part of a contract with the Japanese manufacturer.
The new unit adds 15,000 sq ft of manufacturing space to the existing 11,500 sq ft and equipment installed includes a £40,000 Donaldson ECB dust extraction booth that removes dust from the production area and recirculates clean air that has been through its filtration system back into the factory.
Auto Styling Truckman’s boss Mike Wheeler claims strong demand from commercial and private customers spurred the move to increase manufacturing capacity.
“The economy appears to be picking up and we are noticing a positive reaction from our existing customers in addition to a number of new enquiries. This validates our decision to invest in our facilities, which can be the springboard to further growth,” says Wheeler.
A spokesman said the new facility will enable the firm to increase production by up to 40%.