Sector Analysis: Medium vans

Date: Monday, April 30, 2012

Sales of mid-sized vans got off to a sluggish start to the year. James Dallas looks at the models and innovations that could spark a recovery as we progress through 2012.
The big event in the medium van sector this year will be Ford’s unveiling of its short-wheelbase Transit at the Commercial Vehicle Show on 24 April.
Ford has promised a radical redesign of the market leading van, of which it sold almost 30,000 units in 2011, more than twice as many as its nearest rival, the Vauxhall Vivaro.
The manufacturer is to borrow heavily from the Kinetic Design language already seen on its passenger car range in giving the Transit a sleeker, sportier style.
The new model is expected to be powered by Ford’s Euro5 2.2-litre Duratorq TDCi diesel engine with power outputs of 100, 125 and 150hp.
An eight-seat front-wheel drive minibus version of the new Transit will be based on the Tourneo Custom Concept Ford displayed at the Geneva motor show in March. The company said this concept “communicates very clearly a dramatic new design direction for Ford’s commercial vehicle range, which will be introduced later in 2012”.
Vauxhall last year celebrated a decade of Vivaro production at its Luton plant, which has also won the contract to build the
next generation of the van from next year.
The manufacturer claims to head sales in the commercial vehicle retail sector – which is what it terms small businesses – with the Vivaro leading the way. Vauxhall says it sold 11,436 vans to small businesses in 2011, a rise of 28%.
Overall the Vivaro was the UK’s third biggest seller last year with volumes up 52% to 14,988.
Mercedes-Benz buffed up its reputation for technological innovation when its Vito E-cell was among the first raft of vans to be deemed eligible for the Government’s Plug-in Van Grant.

Mercedes is marketing the electric Vito on a lease only basis so, with the 20% discount included, it is now available from £1040 a month. It claims it opted for the leasing approach so that it can more easily upgrade customers as the technology advances.
Run on 16 Lithium-ion batteries the Vito E-cell has a range of 80 miles from a six-hour charge. The electric motor has output of 60Kw with 280Nm of torque. With the Vito E-Cell targeted at urban operations and to maximise battery range, the manufacturer has limited top speed to 50mph.
Citroen will debut its updated Dispatch at the CV Show. The mid-sized van gets a new front end, sporting the latest Chevron badge and a wide chrome grille that extends up to the headlights.
It is available with hill-start assist and a speed limiter. Citroen has also introduced Grip Control to the Dispatch with a choice of four modes – normal, all-terrain, sand and snow. The anti-skid option is designed to improve traction in all driving conditions.
The Dispatch’s armory now also includes an optional tyre pressure monitor system.
To reduce CO2 emissions the Dispatch now gets aerodynamic panels under the body and a volt control function to optimise the alternator’s battery charge management. The brand claims to have cut emissions by 5g/km to 177g/km for the HDi 90hp engine and by 11g/km to 168g/km on the HDi 125.
This year Citroen has also introduced a six-seat, Euro5 Dispatch HDi 125 six-speed manual L2 H1 crew van to its line-up with a payload of over 1000kg and a price tag of £21,120 (exc VAT).
Like its PSA partner brand, Peugeot has spruced up its own medium van, the Expert, for 2012. The model went on sale, in both panel van and passenger carrying Tepee form, in March.
The Euro5 Expert has a new face and the most frugal 2.0-litre HDi van delivers CO2 emissions of 168g/km. The 163hp version is now offered with a six-speed automatic gearbox.
New CV sales got off to a sluggish start to the year following a strong 2011 with sales of medium van’s weighing 2.0-2.5-tonnes falling 11% to 3000, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers &?Traders. It is to be hoped that spring sees a recovery.


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