The large light commercial vehicle market might be down, but it’s certainly not out, writes Ian Shaw.
The LCV market as a whole has seen some depression of late, and despite some commentators trying to talk it up as merely monthly fluctuations the underlying trend is of a slight drop, although some individual sectors are weathering the storm better than others.
The large van sector, included along with medium vans in those light commercial vehicles with gross vehicle mass from 2.5t to 3.5t, has seen something of a decline. There was some good news in April, which saw a rise of 3.9% in registrations of all LCVs, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), putting 23,501 new vans on UKs roads, which compares to a fall of almost 19% in April 2017.
Mike Hawes, chief executive of the SMMT, said: “After last April’s double-digit decline, last month’s growth isn’t surprising. Year-on-year van market performance has fluctuated over recent months, reflecting natural variances in buying cycles and a range of new model introductions. We expect this trend to continue throughout 2018.”
In the 2.5-3.5t sector, covering medium and large vans, April 2018 saw a year-on-year rise in registrations from 13,583 to 14,334 units, an increase of 5.5%.
For the first four months of the year, however, the picture is not so rosy. On a year-to-date basis the LCV market as a whole saw 117,875 registrations, which, compared to the first four months of 2017, represents a decline of 2.3%. The large van sector took a bigger hit – even with the bulk of large fleet operator sales being in the 2.5-3.5t parc, total registrations dropped from 75,190 year-to-date 2017 to 71,726 during the same period in 2018, a fall of 4.6%.
The manufacturers’ story saw three large vans make it into the SMMT’s top 10 sales list in April. The Ford Transit was the UK’s second most popular van (behind its little brother the Transit Custom), with 1,670 examples finding homes. Next up was Mercedes’ Sprinter with 1,008 units shifted, making it the eighth bestseller overall – one place above the Peugeot Boxer with 814 registrations.
Despite the current uncertainty in the marketplace, there is much to look forward to in the large van sector.
The eagerly anticipated new Mercedes Sprinter arrives in June, available for the first time in front-wheel drive as well as rear- and all-wheel drive, which were the only choices offered for the two previous generations of the van. Renault’s debut electric large van, the Master Z.E., comes to market in October, and already on sale is Fiat Professional’s factory-produced range of Ducato-based conversions under the Ready for Professionals banner.
Meanwhile, Volkswagen has just upgraded the warranty on its Crafter models from three years and up to 60,000 miles to three years and unlimited mileage. The manufacturer claims this offers greater peace of mind for operators whose vehicles regularly exceed 60,000 miles. The upgraded warranty applies to all models, including panel vans and chassis cabs with gross vehicle weights from 3.0t to 5.0t.
The warranty, which is composed of a two-year manufacturer warranty and third-year Van Centre guarantee, protects against the failure of most mechanical and electrical components due to manufacturing defects.
Commenting on the change, Trevor Hodgson-Phillips, head of service and parts for Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles, said: “Our ‘Working With You’ promise means listening to our customers and providing the aftersales products and services which keep them moving, so they can keep their businesses moving forward.”
Fiat Professional Ready for Professionals range April 2018
Mercedes-Benz Sprinter June 2018
Renault Master Z.E. October 2018
Volkswagen e-Crafter December 2018
Mercedes-Benz e-Sprinter 2019