Sector Analysis: Large vans

Date: Tuesday, November 29, 2016   |   Author: James Dallas

The established order in the large van segment is about to get shaken up by a couple of new models with more than a little in common.

Volkswagen’s new Crafter and the MAN TGE, which shares its platform in VW’s new, purpose-built factory in Wrzesnia, Poland, will arrive in showrooms from September 2016 and September 2017 respectively, with their sights set on providing a challenge to the sector’s dominant models, the Ford Transit and Mercedes Sprinter.

The VW-developed vans will come in three wheelbases, three roof heights and as single- and double-cab chassis cabs. A 2.0-litre EA 288 Nutz diesel engine, which VW claims it has developed especially for the models, will power the ranges with outputs of 102hp, 122hp and 140hp. There’ll also be a bi-turbo TDI with 177hp.

The vans will be available in front-, rear- and four-wheel drive and with the choice of six-speed manual and eight-speed automatic transmissions.

While the Crafter and TGE are essentially the same apart from their badges, there will be differences in the way they come to market.

As a brand that also produces vans in sectors further down the weight scale, as well as passenger cars, VW has a strong high-street presence and attracts retail business from owner-drivers and SMEs as well as larger fleets.

MAN, on the other hand, is an established HGV manufacturer, and this is its first foray into the LCV market. Its dealerships therefore, are in industrial estates on the outskirts of conurbations and, as the company’s UK boss Simon Elliott admits, they offer little in the way of plush showrooms serving good coffee. What they do offer, however, is truck-like levels of service, including workshops operating out-of-hours to eliminate downtime – something that few manufacturers selling vans alongside cars can manage.

The brand reckons the TGE will benefit from its expertise in the conversion market gained from its truck operation. Elliott predicts one in two TGE sales will be conversions built on chassis cabs.
Initially, he says, the emphasis will be on persuading existing MAN truck customers that also operate large vans to switch from whatever models they currently run to the TGE.

MAN is also to tag along with VW in introducing an electric version of its van. The arrival next year of the E-Crafter, in particular, could prove significant in helping to push plug-in vans out of the margins. VW claims the E-Crafter’s initial range of 125 miles should increase in the near future, making the van an attractive proposition to a wider range of customers, who would also benefit from the Government’s £8,000 grant and the low cost of electricity – about five times cheaper than diesel.

Ford has boosted its eco credentials by installing 2.0-litre Euro6 Ecoblue engines into its Transit line-up, which it claims deliver fuel savings of 13% compared with the outgoing 2.2-litre engine. The brand has also confirmed it will offer a six-speed auto version of its FWD Transit from the start of next year, which will see it rival the, albeit RWD, auto derivatives of the Merc Sprinter and Iveco’s Daily. In addition, Ford will introduce its new Sync3 communications system in January, which enables drivers to use voice commands to control smartphones, audio, navigation and climate functions.

Now under the ownership of Chinese conglomerate SAIC, LDV returned to the UK in the summer with the V80, which it unveiled at the CV Show in April. Based on the brand’s old Maxus, the V80 will win no awards for technological sophistication but should attract interest with an entry-level price tag of just £13,099 (excluding VAT), which undercuts anything else in the sector by about £6,000.

Elsewhere, Peugeot rolled out Euro6 BlueHDi 2.0-litre engines for its Boxer range in time for the September deadline. The 110hp, 130hp and 160hp engines are paired with a six-speed manual gearbox, and stop/ start technology is available across all of the versions. Peugeot claims fuel consumption starts from 47.0mpg, with 154g/km of CO2, a reduction of 30g/km for the 130hp mid-range version.

Mercedes looked to the future at the Hanover motor show in September by revealing its Sprinter-sized Vision electric van, which comes with a pair of roof-mounted drones and compact, wheeled robots in its load bay to deliver goods directly to customers’ doors.

Meanwhile, Mercedes is to cut the 3.5t Sprinter’s unladen weight with optional plastic rear springs instead of steel rear springs.


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