Iveco is expecting its eight-speed Himatic transmission to become the default choice for buyers of its large van. Steve Banner reports.
Iveco’s Daily could soon become the first 3.5-tonner in Britain to be marketed with an automatic gearbox as standard and a manual as an option. So says UK managing director Stuart Webster.
It is a tribute to the success of the vehicle’s hugely impressive eight-speed HiMatic auto. It was fitted to 40% of all Daily models sold on this side of the Channel in 2017, he reports – and the percentage is rising.
“At current pricing it could reach 50% to 55% and it could perhaps even get to 60% eventually,” says Webster. Once it goes above 50% then making it the standard drivetrain would make sense, he believes.
“Getting above 50% isn’t an ‘if’,” he adds, “it’s a ‘when’.”
The Daily grosses at from 3.5t to 7.2t and the HiMatic is offered across the range.
Aside from being a remarkably pleasant ’box to use, it has some practical advantages, says Webster: “You get far better clutch life and a small fuel economy benefit.”
Despite the HiMatic’s virtues, Daily registrations dropped sharply in 2017. Sales at up to 3.5t tumbled by a painful 28.2%, from 4,083 in 2016 to 2,931.
Webster and newly appointed light business line director Chris Read make no apologies for the steep, downwards slither. It is the consequence, they say, of Iveco’s growing unwillingness to seek volume registrations at the expense of unit profitability.
“We don’t want volume at any price,” Webster states. “We will not sell for no margin. End of.”
Putting up with low margins at the front end safe in the knowledge that each sale would generate lots of lucrative service and repair work is no longer a credible strategy in the van market, he continues. That is because vans have become so reliable and service intervals extended to such a degree that they rarely need to visit a workshop.
So Webster and Read are now targeting what Webster describes as “professional” users who want a Daily because they appreciate its virtues and its ability to do a job for them, and not because they want a hefty discount. “If cheap is all you want at up to 3.5t then the Daily is not the answer,” Read remarks.
‘Professional’ users, meanwhile, are also the sort of customer that needs the support of a dealer network that sells trucks too and has workshops that stay open 24/7 as a consequence.
“It’s interesting to note that while our volume sales may have dropped, inquiry levels haven’t,” Webster adds.
Nor is what happened to Daily at 3.5t the whole story: around 1,000 7.0t and 7.2t versions were registered last year, Webster points out. In many cases they were acquired by buyers who had decided to move down from 7.5t to a model that is typically more fuel-efficient and, paradoxically, can often carry more.
Read says the Daily’s virtues include a tight turning circle for its size; the fact that all models are chassis-based, which makes them robust; the availability of twin rear wheels at all weights; and the size of the cargo area. Factory-build vans that go up to a cavernous 19.6m3 and 7.0t are available.
“No other manufacturer offers a van-based product at above 6.0t,” Read points out.
“That said,” Webster adds, “chassis cabs typically account for more than half of Daily sales.”
Daily chassis cabs can be ordered with a variety of bodies under Iveco’s DriveAway programme, including dropsides, tippers and Lutons.
The professional buyers Webster refers to will hopefully be attracted by the new Daily Blue Power range, which is now on sale. The line-up includes the Daily HiMatic Natural Power, the first light commercial powered by compressed natural gas (CNG) to be marketed in Britain with an eight-speed automatic gearbox.
The range also encompasses the Daily Electric and the diesel Daily Euro6 RDE Ready. “It’s the first one to have been tested and verified for Real Driving Emission requirements and is available three years ahead of 2020’s environmental targets,” says Read.