New sales in the two enhanced-traction LCV sectors – pick-ups and 4x4 vans – have been heading in opposite directions almost all year.
The former has expanded and was apparently immune to the economic uncertainty that saw four consecutive months of decline in the overall LCV segment before a modest rise in June.
In July, however, pick-up sales fell for the first time in 16 months - down 9.5% to 2,870 units - but remained ahead by a healthy 14.8% over the first seven months of the year, with almost 30,000 models sold, compared with the corresponding period in 2016.
According to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, which supplied all these statistics, the last time pick-up sales took a dip was in January 2016, although they did pause momentarily in February of this year, with 1,350 registrations being exactly the same number as the same month in the previous year, before once more resuming an upward trajectory.
By contrast, buyers seem to have no appetite for 4x4 vans. Sales slumped 87.2% in June year-on-year to a paltry 16 units, and in the first seven months of 2017 just 303 models found homes – a 91.3% free fall from 3,502 during the same period in 2016.
The collapse in the market could still be influenced by former Land Rover Defender customers turning to pick-ups rather than 4x4 vans for a replacement – a trend that has been claimed by pick-up manufacturers such as Izuzu.
But major manufacturers keep plugging away at the niche sector, obviously believing there is latent demand to be tapped into. Ford introduced the fourth-generation Transit equipped with its Intelligent AWD in May (a couple of months later than originally announced). The system is available on 130hp and 170hp versions of its 2.0-litre Ecoblue engine.
The manufacturer says an enhanced driveline design combines the front differential and all-wheel drive coupling into a single, compact unit that reduces weight by 10kg. Prices start from £33,515 (excluding VAT).
In Q4 Volkswagen is to launch an all-wheel drive 4Motion version of its new Crafter large van. The previous model, based on the Mercedes Sprinter, was only offered with rear-wheel drive.
Back in the pick-up parc and Mercedes has revealed pictures of its eagerly anticipated X-Class, which, like Renault’s forthcoming Alaskan, is based on the Nissan Navara. Despite not being a three-pointed star thoroughbred, Merc is claiming the X-Class will become the most upmarket model on the market. Two engines will be available from the November launch: a 163hp 2.3-litre diesel and a more powerful 190hp version, with a 258hp V6 diesel unit set to arrive this time next year. Three trim levels will be up for grabs: Pure, Progressive and the flagship Power.
Mercedes says the X-Class will have a payload of 1,042kg – slightly less than the 1,114kg of the VW Amarok, which is likely to be its main rival.
At the more utilitarian end of the market, Toyota is extending its Hilux offering with a couple of conversions.
TGS is making tippers and dropsides based on the Hilux single and extra cabs (double-cab versions are not available as the payload would be pushed below 1.0t, making the vehicle liable for VAT). The Hilux dropside conversions cost £2,695 on top of the base model with the tipper body priced at £3,795.
The popularity of new pick-up trucks has had a knock-on affect on second-hand values, however, according to residual value expert Glass’s. It claims supply is outweighing demand to such an extent that only the best examples are finding homes at the first time of asking. Glass’s argues late-year used stock is priced too closely to discounted new models, persuading many customers to opt for the new vehicles.