Despite a turbulent political backdrop the medium van sector is riding the storm with niche new products maintaining interest. James Dallas reports
Sales of vans weighing between 2.5 and 3.5 tonnes stabilised in September – rising year-on-year by a marginal 0.1% to 35,928 units, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).
Although this increase was accounted for by just 35 extra models finding homes, it would have come as a relief, in the big volume plate-change month, to an industry beginning to feel the strain of economic uncertainty caused by stuttering Brexit negotiations between the UK Government and the European Union coupled with the gathering pace of the anti-diesel juggernaut.
Accounting for about 60% of total sales, this segment is the biggest in the market and covers medium and large vans.
Over the first three-quarters of the year, however, volumes of these heavier vans were down 3.2% to 175,415, perhaps indicating a loss of confidence in the corporate sector in particular.
Not that this seemed to apply to Ford, which signed a deal to deliver 507 Transit Customs – powered by the range’s core 2.0-litre, 130hp diesel engine – to Energy supplier SSE.
In a smaller fleet deal, VW has supplied 44 converted Transporters to electrical engineering firm Omega Red Group.
The bespoke fleet has been kitted out with racking, ladder racks, dash cams and telematics equipment and will be used by Omega Red Group’s engineers to transport equipment around the country.
As usual there was a strong contingent of medium vans in the top 10 sellers’ lists for both September and the year-to-date, with the Ford Transit Custom, as ever, way ahead of the opposition in both charts.
In the year to 30 September Ford shifted 40,760 examples of its prized asset with the next biggest-selling mid-sized van, the VW Transporter, weighing in with just 40% of this total on 16,540 registrations.
The Vauxhall Vivaro was hanging in there on 14,896 sold units and its donor model, the Renault Trafic, crept into the top 10 with 10,167 sales for the first nine months of the year.
As yet the new-generation medium vans from Citroen and Peugeot – the Dispatch and Expert –while selling well, have failed to close the gap on their light van (Berlingo and Partner) and heavy van (Relay and Boxer) stablemates.
Vauxhall is to extend its Vivaro range with a trio a trio of passenger-carrying models that it unveiled in September. Aimed at the business shuttle market, the Tourer Elite model will be available with a 1.6-litre CDTi BiTurbo engine with 125hp or 145hp, in either L1 or L2 body sizes. And targeted at customers after a more generously specified combi, the Combi Plus, with its spruced up interior, has a more car-like feel than the standard model, according to the manufacturer.
In addition, Vauxhall is to launch the Vivaro Tourer Weekender camper van, featuring a bed in the third row of seats. Available in L2 (long-wheelbase) format only, the Weekender also comes with a choice of 125hp or 145hp engines.
VW has added a high-spec Edition model to its Transporter line-up priced from £28,990 for the panel van and £30,620 for the Kombi (prices exclude VAT). Powered by 150hp or 204hp versions of the brand’s 2.0-litre TDi engine, the vans are offered with six-speed manual or seven-speed DSG transmissions. Features include 17-inch alloy wheels on 150hp models, and 18-inch black alloys on 204hp models. They also get high-gloss black roof and mirror housings, Edition decals and blacked-out LED tail lights.
Inside, the Edition boasts Discover Media Navigation with App-Connect, while driver aids include front and rear parking sensors with rear-view camera, LED headlights, and power latching on the nearside sliding door.
Meanwhile, Ford has kicked off its trial of 20 plug-in hybrid Transit Customs in London in partnership with Transport for London and backed up by a £4.7m Government grant. A total of 13 organisations will trial the vans with Ford planning to move them into full production in 2019.
Volkswagen Transporter Edition (September 2017)
Vauxhall Vivaro Tourer Elite (October 2017)
Vauxhall Vivaro Combi Plus (October 2017)
Vauxhall Vivaro Tourer Weekender (October 2017)
Transit Custom PHEV (2019)