Just where is the market headed when it comes to the large van market?
At the large end of the van market there’s a battle developing as the main contenders jockey for position against each other. Not only is the competition intense, it will be getting more so as the months pan out towards 2015 and the introduction by IVECO of its latest Daily range.
Next year holds more surprises in this highly interesting market segment as Fiat, Ford and Renault will all be launching upgrades, each designed to make the respective brands more appealing.
Renault is the brand that has been making marketing hay while the summer sun shone. Sales of the Master have risen by 47 percent within the past 12 months (V-Facts YTD June 30), and with a new model on the horizon it should only get better. With 6.7 percent market share in this segment there’s room for the brand to improve.
German van maker Mercedes-Benz does have its new model here on sale, and that has resulted in movement of its sales performance up the charts, growing share by 20 percent over the past 12 months (V-Facts YTD June 30), to hold 19.2 percent of market share.
Fiat has managed to launch its new version of the Ducato onto the European market and at the same time it’s managed to increase its sales performance by 14.6 percent over the corresponding same period of last year (V-Facts YTD June 30). Its sales topped out at the end of the financial year with 566 units, up 72 sales to take just 8.6 percent market share.
In amongst the winners there are always losers, and here the buck stops with the blue oval badge of Ford. If there’s a fault at Ford it’s not the vehicle, even the old outgoing Transit model is not a bad buy. The reason why Ford is faring so poorly in the sales of its light commercial vehicles is a lack of focus (no pun intended).
The marketing gurus at Ford who deal in light commercials remind us at Delivery of the Blue Man Group cabaret act. If you look hard you can see them, but, as they don’t speak to anyone, there’s every chance you won’t know they exist.
The new Transit should rate its hubcaps off when it finally makes it to the Australian market. When that might be of course is anyone’s guess at present.
So, let’s make some subjective decisions about whether a large van is the right solution for you.
If you are looking to transport cargo, don’t want to load it onto a tray and then have to worry about tarps, don’t want something that looks like a truck such as a curtainsider, and are on the lookout for a car-like drive, then a van is the right solution.
If you value safety and want the highest levels of technology available then look no further than Mercedes-Benz. The Sprinter is a consistent winner of the Delivery Magazine Van of the Year Award and it achieves that goal for the plethora of safety inclusions that come with the brand.
Pretty much all the safety features available on the Mercedes-Benz car range can be included in the van models. Add to that the availability of an excellent seven-speed automatic transmission and the driveability, low fuel consumption and low interior noise levels that also feature strongly, and you are starting your selection process from a very strong base.
The Volkswagen Crafter may look pretty much identical with the Sprinter, but looks can be deceiving. Up until now, both the Crafter and Sprinter have shared the same production line as a cooperative venture. Apart from the different badges front and rear, Mercedes-Benz slotted in its engines and transmissions into the Sprinter and Volkswagen fitted its own engines and gearboxes to the Crafter. Unfortunately for VW, it hasn’t had a suitable torque converter automatic transmission or an AMT, and that’s meant manual gearboxes.
Production for Crafter is slated to shift to Poland, where VW makes the Caddy van. If our information is correct, once the new factory is up and running Crafter may be offering an eight-speed ZF transmission as an option.
IVECO’s Daily is amply discussed elsewhere in this issue, so we will simply suggest that if you are intending to buy in the first quarter of 2015 then wait and try the all-new Daily. Delivery Magazine’s first introduction to the all-new line-up showed this is going to be very competitive. If there’s an Achilles heal in the marketing of the Daily, it’s the restriction of availability from high street dealerships. You have to find an IVECO truck dealership to place your order.
The current Ducato works well, and one presumes the new version is going to be an improvement. Remember here that you are buying a front-wheel-drive model and that’s not always ideal, especially if you are looking to carry weights at the heavy end of the spectrum. Fiat’s pricing of late has been very competitive, so there may be some bargains available around Christmas time.
Renault and its Master is one of our favourites, marred only by it not offering a fluid automatic transmission and relying in its place on an automated manual gearbox (AMT). If you are happy shifting gears on your own then you will undoubtedly like the Master and the clever interior design of the cabin.
Pricing for Renault is very keen, explaining the rapid rise in registrations. Aussie Post has taken the jump from Sprinter to Master and the extra High Street visibility may just bring the brand the additional publicity it needs to strike a few more goals.
Before jumping one way or another into your new van purchase, check out interior configuration. Decide whether you need a full-width bulkhead or whether a half-width might be better for your style of work. The same applies to specifying sliding side load doors. You can delete them completely, order one for the nearside or have them fitted on both sides. Our pick? It’s an advantage to have access from either side, so go for the dual doors.
Fuel economy amongst all these contenders is amazing, with regular consumption figures well under 10 l/100 km easily obtainable. If you intend to run long distances check on fuel tank capacity. Some of these vans come with a standard 75-litre tank while others offer a 100-litre upgrade. Our Pick? Go for the added volume, especially if travelling interstate.
One final comment. Compare the external roof heights against the internal height dimensions. Those models with front-wheel-drive offer a lower floor level than the average rear-drive configuration. Just because it looks taller, doesn’t mean its interior measurements confirm that size is everything. And if you don’t need a high-roof version stay low. It will repay you by slipping through the air more easily and using less fuel.
Remember that all large van engine and transmission options can be compared in Delivery’s specification charts. Happy hunting.