The introduction of more stringent emissions legislation could see manufacturers move away from the sector, reports James Dallas.
The pick-up sector has been one of the standout success stories in the UK market in recent years, but with legislation coming in to put a cap on the average emissions of manufacturers’ vehicle ranges, the boom times could be drawing to a close.
By 2021 light commercial vehicle ranges will be restricted to an average CO2 output of no more than 147g/km, which may lead some brands to consider pick-up trucks an expendable luxury.
On the other hand, could this see an uplift in demand for smaller, lower-emission 4x4 LCVs to fill the gap?
The tide may have started to turn last year: according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) UK pick-up sales dipped 1% year-on year to 53,055, although, with precious few models to choose from, the niche 4x4 sector was down 9.7% to just 1,620 registrations.
But with emissions guidelines stricter for cars than LCVs manufacturers need to shuffle their packs, and rumours are circulating that Suzuki will give a new lease of life to its little Jimny off-roader by converting it into an N1 vehicle, by removing its rear seats and calling it a Jimny van.
While the current lowest CO2 output in the Jimny range (154g/km) is still above the target for LCVs, Suzuki might, with some revisions, be able to keep the Jimny on sale thanks to the more lenient targets for commercial vehicles.
Speculation has also surfaced as to whether the Renault-owned budget brand Dacia might be about to resurrect its Duster Commercial 4x4, which it withdrew in 2017 when the first-generation Duster finished its run. Intriguingly, before the coronavirus outbreak put paid to the Commercial Vehicle Show, Dacia was scheduled to take a stand at the exhibition. Only time will tell what it had in store.
Unfortunately, the lockdown necessitated by the Covid-19 pandemic has put product launches on ice across the board, but a 4x4 that was definitely set to arrive this year was the Land Rover Defender 90 Commercial with an eye-watering pre-VAT price tag of £35k.
The passenger car Defender is currently offered with a choice of four powertrains: a 2.0-litre diesel with 200hp or 240hp, and two petrol engines: a 2.0-litre and a 3.0-litre. The Commercial is likely to only be available with the diesels as there is very little demand for petrol-powered LCVs. All engines come paired to an automatic gearbox and four-wheel drive.
The passenger version is already rated for a payload of 900kg and an up to 300kg static roof load, and those numbers are unlikely to decrease for the upcoming Commercial model. It can tow up to 3,500kg.
Already on sale is Vauxhall’s Combo Cargo 4x4 converted by traction specialist Dangel. It provides up to 205mm of ground clearance – 110mm higher than the two-wheel drive version – and features stronger underbody protection to enable it to tackle rougher terrain.
Three versions of the model are available: the Combo L1 Edition 4x4 costs £34,660, the Combo L2 Edition 4x4 is £35,860, and the Combo L1 Sportive 4x4 is £36,010. All prices exclude VAT.
Returning to pick-ups, and bowing out in May will be Mercedes’ X-Class. Sales never lived up to the hype – just 2,000 were shifted in the UK – and with the flagship X350d, powered by Merc’s own V6 powertrain, arriving too late to save the day, buyers were likely put off by a starting price of more than £27,000 for a rebadged Nissan Navara.
Also taking its leave this year will be the VW Amarok. Production of the vehicle in Hanover was set to come to a halt in May as the manufacturer starts to prepare the plant to build the ID Buzz electric range, including the ID Buzz Cargo panel van, which is set to come to market in 2022.
Another major factor in VW’s decision to withdraw the Amarok is that under the brand’s alliance with Ford, the Blue Oval is to take control of producing pick-ups, meaning that when the partnership’s first one breaks cover in 2022 it will probably be based on the Ford Ranger.
Mercedes X-Class May 2020
VW Amarok September 2020
Vauxhall Combo Cargo January 2020
Land Rover Defender Commercial September 2020