If the state of the light commercial vehicle industry is a barometer for the health of the economy then the medium van sector is the most representative part of the market as a whole. And in April it looked like it caught a spring cold.

Total LCV sales fell 18.8% year-on-year to 22,265, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, but sales in the big 2.5-3.5t segment, which covers medium and large vans and accounts for nearly 60% of the market, tumbled by 23.1% to 13,583 units.

While the decrease was exaggerated as it came on the back of double-digit growth in April 2016, it also coincided with the Office of National Statistics reporting falling consumer confidence, with the biggest quarterly drop in UK retail sales for seven years, and it is medium vans that lead the way in home deliveries.

In the year-to-date, however, 75,190 registrations in the 2.5-3.5t sector equated to a decline of less than 3.0%, so it is to be hoped, as the SMMT predicts, the market will return to its even keel.

Medium vans occupied four spots in the top 10 for both April and the first four months of the year, with the best-selling Ford Transit Custom joined by the VW Transporter, Vauxhall Vivaro and Renault Trafic.

Ford added a six-speed automatic transmission to its 130hp 2.0 and 170hp Custom versions in May, and at the CV Show it revealed the first five fleets to participate in its Transit Custom PHEV (Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle) London trial that will begin this autumn. The Metropolitan Police force is to take on two models: one marked for second response to traffic accidents and one unmarked as a forensic support unit.

As revealed in What Van? in February, Transport for London, which is supporting the project, is also participating in the trial, with three plug-in hybrid Transit Customs for freight duty use. The other companies coming on board are Clancy Plant, Addison Lee and British Gas. Ford said the 20 Custom PHEVs involved in the 12-month trial could reduce local emissions by running solely on electric power for the majority of inner-city trips due to an all-electric range of 30 miles.

Toyota used this year’s CV Show to launch its Trade Plus Programme of approved conversions. The line-up includes a refrigerated Proace converted by Coolkit of Burnley to chilled specifications, and a load area racking package for the Proace courtesy of Bri-Stor of Hixon in Staffordshire.

Toyota light commercial vehicle manager, Gareth Matthews, is pleased with the progress the Proace, which shares PSA’s platform for the Citroen Dispatch and Peugeot Expert, is now making and says the brand could in future launch a dropside or a small box van based on the 3.1t platform cab.

Both Citroen and Peugeot drew attention to the availability of their full Dispatch and Expert line-ups at the NEC event in Birmingham, and both vans are now offered in three lengths.
Citroen’s LCV boss Jeremy Smith claims sales of the new Dispatch outstripped those of the old one by 500 units year-on-year over the first quarter of 2017.

Meanwhile, Peugeot’s head of business sales, Louise Neilson, says the new Expert Long crew van is getting a particularly positive reaction. Vauxhall did not attend the CV
Show but has revealed a Vivaro race van concept to celebrate it’s commercial vehicle partnership with the British Superbike Championship. Designed with racking company Sortimo, the van’s cargo layout is flexible, allowing it to be transformed to support track-day or off-road motorcycling. The exterior livery, designed by Motormode, features the Vauxhall griffin riding a motorcycle.