Sales of pick-up trucks bounced back at the beginning of the year having come under pressure in 2012 when the market contracted by 6.5% to just under 25,000 units, according to the SMMT.
In February the sector grew by a whopping 70% year-on-year as 1047 trucks left showrooms while over the first two months of the year it was up 45% to 3244 units.
A number of factors may have contributed to the improvement.
Operators holding off replacing their fleets could have bitten the bullet and bought new stock or an increasing number of customers may be concluding that in tough times one pick-up truck can do the job of a working vehicle plus a family car.
Ford reckons this could be the case for its well-upholstered new Ranger. “We’re getting huge interest in our latest Ranger and we reckon that sector of the market will increase significantly in both 2013 and 2014,” says Ford sales director, Andy Barratt.
More optimistically from an economic point of view, a glut of new products may have stimulated sales or the long awaited return to growth in housebuilding and road infrastructure may have extended beyond anecdotal evidence into reality and given the sector a shot in the arm.
Much of the recent activity has focused on the utilitarian rather than the higher end of the market.
Nissan has introduced the Visia as the entry level model in its Navara line-up with a price tag of £17,995, excluding VAT.
The Visia is powered by a 144hp version of Nissan’s 2.5-litre dCi engine producing 350Nm of torque. The manufacturer claimed it achieves 33.6mpg on the combined cycle.
Cost savings have been made through movements such as eschewing the use of chrome for the door handles, which are finished in black, and through fitting a body-coloured front bumper rather than having a two-tone element.
Likewise the grille struts are painted rather than chromed and conventional wiper blades are used instead of the flat blades fitted to higher specification Navara models.
ESP comes as standard and other features include part-time four-wheel drive, air-conditioning, central door locking, six airbags, a CD player and Bluetooth connectivity.
Nissan says the Visia will enable it to compete with established fleet sector models such as the Toyota Hilux HL2 and Mitsubishi’s L200 4Life.
LCV sales director Matt Dale explains: “We already compete in the higher end of the sector, the Visia will bring us conquest business.”
Mitsubishi introduced the L200 Trojan double cab as a permanent member of its line-up last year, having previously offered the compact, standard bed (1325 x 1470 x 405mm) model as a special edition only. With the same 2.5-litre, 178hp engine as the rest of the range, the manufacturer says the Trojan, priced from £17,999 excluding VAT, will bridge the gap between the entry-level 4Work and 4Life models and flagship iterations such as the Warrior and Barbarian.
The Trojan mixes basic specification with more luxurious features. It offers leather seats, 16-inch alloys and climate control but no parking sensors and no steering wheel-mounted controls for the sound system, for example.
Mitsubishi’s UK boss Lance Bradley claims: “The L200 Trojan is hugely popular with workers and families alike, offering affordable, functional, utilitarian work uses, whilst still being safe, comfortable and fun for active families.”
Earlier this year the brand offered a £2000 discount on the Trojan, giving it a starting price of £15,999.
At the Geneva Motor Show in February, Mitsubishi focused on the future by showcasing a concept electric/diesel hybrid pick-up dubbed the GR-HEV. It claims the vehicle will achieve CO2 emissions of less than 149g/km if it comes to production.
Back at the budget end of the sector, Chinese brand Great Wall has extended its Steed range with two special editions priced at £14,998. Both have a payload of 1050kg and benefit from the Steed’s recently uplifted towing capacity of 2500kg – it was previously 2000kg.
The Steeds Chrome and Tracker went on sale in March and the manufacturer claims the equipment included offers savings of £800 over the cost of the accessories if purchased individually.
The Chrome is aimed at “the jobbing tradesman wanting to stand out from the crowd” but also at the growing number of business users who also want their vehicle to double up for domestic use.
In addition to standard entry-level kit such as 16-inch alloys, daytime running lights, Bluetooth, steering wheel-mounted audio controls, manual air-conditioning and heated front seats it features chrome side and sports bars, chrome fog lamp surrounds, chrome rear-lamp finishers, stainless-steel door entry guards, an over-rail bedliner, tinted windows, metallic paint and carpet floor mats.
The Steed Tracker is aimed at more rugged activities and gets additions such as General Grabber all-terrain tyres, an over-rail bedliner, a towbar with audible monitor, front and rear mudflaps, rubber mats and metallic paint.
If you’re looking for a lifestyle pick-up, then Ssangyong’s Korando Sports is an option, though beware of the extremely limited payload that comes with its pick-up that’s more focused on play than work.
Launched late in 2012, it is powered by a 2.0-litre 155hp e-XDi diesel engine wedded to a six-speed manual or auto gearbox. It offers generous levels of kit, including electric driver’s seat, cruise control and leather seating but has a payload of just 650kg. The entry price is £15,291 before VAT.
Volkswagen has introduced Bluemotion Technology and a 180hp version of its 2.0-litre diesel engine to replace the 163hp unit in its Amarok.
Towing limits have increased from 2800kg to 3000kg for manual models with the more powerful engine while a new eight-speed automatic version has a higher towing limit of 3200kg.
Payloads have also increased – the new 180hp 4Motion Selectable has a payload range from 1091 to 1145kg compared with 1064 to 1108kg on the 163hp 4Motion Selectable it replaces.
The addition of Bluemotion Technology means this model achieves combined fuel economy of 37.2mpg and CO2 emissions of 199g/km compared to the 35.8mpg and 209g/km of its predecessor.
One manufacturer that will not be joining the pick-up sector anytime soon is Chevrolet. The GM-owned brand has shelved plans mooted over a year ago to launch a production version of the Colorado show truck in the UK.

Used trends

According to used market analyst Glass’s Guide, market sentiment towards single cab workhorse pick-ups remains firmer than it is for double cab and king cab models.
With export demand down for Nissan, Mitsubishi and Toyota pick-ups, auction prices for hard-worked Japanese models have flagged, Glass’s says.
But CV editor George Alexander maintains buyers looking for workhorse 4×2 or 4×2 models were willing to overlook minor damage whether it be on a Ford Ranger, Mitsubishi L200 or Toyota Hilux. For high-end lifestyle models, however, he says customers are far pickier about mileage and condition.