Toyota’s medium van has given the brand a foothold in the mainstream of the LCV market – and now it is looking to step up, reports James Dallas.
Collaborations between manufacturers are commonplace in the light commercial vehicle industry nowadays and by getting on board PSA’s medium van platform beside the Citroen Dispatch and Peugeot Expert, Toyota looks to have made the right choice for its Proace.
The current-generation vans launched in 2016 and were immediately recognised as being a superior proposition to their predecessors. What Van? certainly thought so – in 2017 we crowned the models our joint LCVs of the Year and in 2018 they once more finished on top in the medium van category.
Gareth Matthews, Toyota’s light commercial vehicle boss, says that, backed up by the Proace’s five-year warranty, the awards have “established the van as a credible player with a credible publication”.
Since winning the top prize in 2017, Toyota has continued to attach a What Van? Awards winner’s badge to the back of its Proace vans, and at least one of the brand’s dealerships, Jemca in Sidcup, Kent, has taken matters further by displaying a Proace on its forecourt adorned with a large What Van? Awards logo on its side door.
Matthews explains this is not dictated by head office but that the brand makes its marketing assets available to its network so that dealers can choose which aspects they wish to use.
“The dealer has decided to use it as its main message,” he says. “It’s a further endorsement for another year.”
He claims Toyota has received outstanding feedback for the Proace for its fuel economy, driveability and customers’ experiences at dealerships.
Toyota has about 130 retail outlets in the UK, all of which are authorised to sell LCVs, and within this total are 63 Business Centres geared towards fleet customers.
Matthews says the manufacturer examined the network to determine where the volume lies for LCVs and the dealership capability to sell and service. Following this process it appointed 25 centres as LCV specialists. These sites must display the full range of LCVs as well as deploy a member of staff as a dedicated van specialist, with a marketing budget ring-fenced for commercial vehicles. They must also instigate a procedure to deal with LCV aftersales including the provision of flexible servicing options.
Matthews says these centres sell more light commercials more profitably than the rest of the network largely because they are able to upsell with options and conversions.
Having showcased its conversions range at the 2017 Commercial Vehicle Show, Toyota launched its Trade Plus conversion programme later in the year. Factory-produced vehicles include tipper and dropsides based on the Hilux pick-up truck and a Proace refrigerator van, as well as models kitted out with racking supplied by Bristor.
Getting established in the conversion sector, not to mention the van market generally, can be a painstaking process with so many recognised players already in the field, but Matthews says Toyota has been raising awareness of its range at a regional level through attending local county shows.
The manufacturer now has 10 authorised converters on board with a further three in the pipeline, according to Matthews.
In addition the brand launched a Proace-based camper van at the Caravan, Camping and Motorhome Show in February 2018 and the model returned to the NEC for the Commercial Vehicle Show in April. Other highlights included an Arctic Trucks-adapted Hilux and the UK debut of the Land Cruiser Commercial.