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.

Stuart class=

Stuart Webster, Iveco’s UK managing director

The Blue Power’s arrival coincides with the run-up to the launch of London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone in April 2019, which will require vans to meet Euro6 standards. To that can be added the roll-out of Clean Air Zones elsewhere in the UK.

“Operators are looking to find a solution that will work for them,” says Webster. Both Webster and Read are hoping that at least some of them will decide that Blue Power is the answer.

One of the drawbacks of opting for gas or battery power at 3.5t is that the extra burden imposed by the gas cylinders and battery packs eats into what may already be a limited payload capacity.

In response, Iveco alternative fuels director Martin Flach has lobbied relentlessly for the Government to increase the gross vehicle weight allowance for alternative-fuel light commercials, which can be driven by standard Category B licence holders, from 3.5t to 4.25t. The 750kg increase will bring back some of the payload capacity that would otherwise be lost.

The concession would apply to drivers who passed their test after 1 January 1997.

Drivers who passed their test prior to that date can already drive goods vehicles grossing at up to 7.5t under grandfather rights. Drivers who passed their test subsequently are restricted to 3.5t unless they pass a separate test but, like older drivers, can tow a trailer grossing at up to 750kg – the same weight as the concession being requested.

The lobbying looks as though it is about to pay off, with the licence amendment Flach is seeking now almost certain to be implemented.

“In the meantime the Government has already made another important change,” he says. “Businesses running 3.5-tonners powered by alternative fuels that gross at up to 4.25t will not now need a heavy truck Operator’s Licence.”

Ordinarily an O licence is required by anybody operating vehicles that weigh above 3.5t.
Webster is mooting a more radical change to the driving licence rules post-Brexit.
“How about a return to a 7.5t limit for all car licence holders?” he asks.

It worked up until the late 1990s – there seems no reason why it shouldn’t work again – and it would go some way towards addressing the shortage of drivers able to drive anything heavier than a 3.5-tonner.

Flach was inducted into the What Van? Hall of Fame as part of the What Van? Awards for 2018.

Another winner was the Daily itself. It picked up the Highly Commended accolade in the Large Van category having previously won the category for three years running.

While CNG can be as much as 30% to 40% cheaper than diesel, a Daily HiMatic Natural Power will cost around £5,000 more than its diesel-powered counterpart, and most service stations do not have a CNG pump. The Daily Electric is four or five times more expensive than its diesel opposite number, and while the electricity it runs on costs pennies per mile, that steep front-end price premium will be difficult for the majority of operators to swallow.

So diesel looks set to play a key role so far as light commercials are concerned for some time to come, although businesses would be well-advised to invest in the latest diesel technology – the Euro6 RDE Ready is a prime example – if they want to be able to deliver throughout the UK without hindrance over the next few years.

“Euro6 diesel engines are exceptionally clean,” says Webster. “Even the legislators acknowledge Euro6 diesels as clean enough to enter the most stringently controlled of tomorrow’s Clean Air Zones.

“And they’re outstandingly fuel-efficient – minimising the use of the planet’s scarce resources and improving air quality levels as a result because less fuel used
equates to fewer emissions emitted,” he concludes.