THE mood of the van manufacturers, buoyed by a rising market, was bright and upbeat at this year’s larger CV Show, which ran at the NEC Birmingham from April 12-14, 2011. Among the highlights were the new double cab wars as Ford’s Ranger took on Volkswagen’s Amarok, along with cleaner and greener-engined models as van makers pushed down CO2 emissions.
Mark Bursa files this show report.
First big reveal of the day was the new Volkswagen Amarok pick-up, displayed (once the covers were off) in up-market crew-cab trim. With proven 2.0-litre turbodiesel power and optional 4Motion four-wheel drive, the Argentina-built Amarok offers decent fuel economy and lower CO2 emissions than many of its larger-engined rivals. VW Commercial Vehicle boss Simon Elliott said: “It’s going to be a runaway success – we’ve got 1,000 orders in the bank and dealers are screaming for more.” A single-cab 4×2 will follow in 2012.
Ford Ranger Wildtrak
Amarok was not the only pick-up debutant at the NEC. The all-new Ford Ranger made its UK debut with top-of-the-range Wildtrak trim. It’s built in South Africa, and it looks a serious piece of kit. Top-spec includes a 200PS, 470Nm 3.2-litre diesel, though most sales will be a more modest 150PS 2.2-litre unit. There’s a single cab version on the way too – it goes on sale before the end of the year.
Isuzu can’t get enough Rodeo Denver pick-ups at the moment – and the situation isn’t going to get any better as the current model is now on run-out. An all-new Rodeo Denver is due in the new year, said sales boss William Brown, but in the meantime the current model is something of a bargain – especially the 136PS 2.5 Rodeo Single Cab 4X2 at just £12,699.
Ford Transit Connect Electric
Inevitably, there was a strong eco-theme at the Show, with Ford’s new battery-electric Transit making its debut. Developed in partnership with EV specialists Azure Dynamics, and assembled in Worcester, the electric van offers around 80 miles of range on a single charge. Initial orders are likely to be to big fleets, as it’s not cheap – £39,995, or £600 a month for an all-inclusive lease. But Ford says it’s built to last, and should give up to eight years’ reliable service.
Renault Kangoo ZE
The Transit Connect Electric’s main rival is likely to be the Renault Kangoo ZE – and on paper, the Renault looks a good bet, as it’ll cost just £16,990 to £18,690 excluding VAT, plus an additional battery lease of £59 per month based on 9,000 miles and four years. It goes on sale in October in both standard and Maxi lengths, and Renault announced the first customer at the show – billboard advertising company JC Decaux has bought six of the electric vans.
Tata Ace EV van
Here’s another British-built electric van – the Tata Ace EV electric minivan was developed in Coventry and is aimed at operators such as local councils or airports, where range and speed aren’t so important. But it’ll pootle along at 25mph for 30 miles on a charge, and it’ll carry up to 500kg, so might be a usable city centre delivery van for a florist or a garden centre.
Tata Ace EV tipper
The Tata Ace is old-tech, with lead-acid batteries to keep the price down. As well as a van, this neat tipper-bodied version was on show. The Tata Ace complies with UK construction and use regulations, allowing full registration as EU Category N1. In fact the non-electric Ace is a petrol-engined microvan that’s proved very popular in India since its launch in 2006.
DFSK Electric Van
The Tata Ace wasn’t the only electric microvan at the NEC. How about this –the DFSK electric vans are made in China and imported to the UK by Parkers Group. Performance looks impressive, with a top speed of 50mph and a quoted range of 65 miles. Prices start at £15,500, and the vans come with a range of bodies, including panel van, window van, pick-up, tipper and box van. Payload is a usable 750kg, and the vans are fully EU type-approved.
The DFSK models are also available with an 82bhp 1.3-litre petrol engine, which is good news for microvan fans. In fact, the DFSK vans – made by big Chinese automaker Dongfeng – are based on the familiar Suzuki Super Carry. Easy to tell them apart thanks to that amusing BMW-style kidney grille. BMW won’t like this – but you’d hardly confuse a DSFK with a 5-series or an X3! Prices start at £6,995 for the basic K-series van, and there’s a huge range of body options including pick-up and crew-cab, with dropside, box and tipper bodies. Details from www.parkers-group.co.uk
Going electric makes more sense for larger vans believes Geoff Allison, UK managing director of Smiths Electric. The Tyneside-based company, now US-owned, offers the Edison range of Transit-based electric vans as well as a larger 7.5-12 tonne truck called the Newton, based on a Czech Avia chassis, and it has started to pick up orders from big fleets such as TNT, which has 51 Newton 7.5-tonners, and Sainsbury’s, which runs 54 Edisons on food delivery services within the M25. Range is up to 110 miles depending on the battery pack, and there’s a four-hour fast-charge option.
Hyundai attended the Commercial Vehicle Show for the first time showing the latest versions of its iLoad Panel and Crew van – both now now available with a Euro 5 engine resulting in 10.4% reduction in CO2 and an 8.4% improvement in fuel economy. Mark Baxter, Hyundai’s product manager, tell us: “We saw the CV show as an ideal opportunity to demonstrate the iLoad’s capabilities to the wider light commercial vehicle user audience, especially as the iLoad now has a more fuel-efficient engine.” Hyundai is also offering the ‘Trade and Upgrade’ scheme on iLoad. Similar to the Government Scrappage Scheme, ‘Trade and Upgrade’ allows owners of seven to 10 year old cars in Britain to get an allowance of between £1,500–£3,000 towards a brand new Hyundai car. For iLoad, consumers would save £2,300 on the list price when trading in their old van.
Mercedes Vito E-cell
Mercedes-Benz has been experimenting with various alternative fuels and powertrains – a natural gas-powered Sprinter featured on its show stand. But the most important launch was the company’s first battery-electric van, the Vito E-cell. Around 50 of these will be tested in the UK by large blue-chip fleets this year, with a wider launch expected in 2012. Built in Spain, the Vito E-Cell has a payload of 900kg and a range of 80 miles. It takes approximately six hours to charge the lithium ion battery pack.
OK, it’s not a van – but Nissan is so keen on electric vehicles that it put the Leaf electric car at the centre of its extensive stand. Good reason too – an electric van is on its way by 2013, though Nissan’s UK van boss Francis Bleasdale wouldn’t confirm whether this would be based on the NV200. “It’ll be a car-derived van. It won’t be a panelled version of the Leaf, but it’s not necessarily an NV200,” he said. Could Nissan leverage group economies of scale by sourcing a version of the Renault Kangoo ZE? After all, the old Kangoo was sold as the Nissan Kubistar.
The decision to renew the Renault-GM van alliance for the next-generation Trafic and Vivaro could mean Nissan will source a replacement for the current Primastar from Luton. The next-generation vans won’t be here until 2013, and in the meantime, the current model has received the same recent interior facelift as its Vauxhall and Renault siblings. “The Primastar will be replaced by an NV-badged van, but there are options,” said Nissan van boss Francis Bleasdale.
Certainly, Nissan’s original plan to replace the old Interstar with a Japanese-designed van was swiftly reshaped once the economy got tough – and the NV400 is based on the trusted Renault Master/Vauxhall Movano. It looks good too, with a distinctive nose design based on the Navara pick-up. “The alliance strategy is still the foundation of a lot of what we do, though where it makes sense to do something ourselves, we will,” said Francis Bleasdale, Nissan van boss. NV400 will arrive in the UK in October, though Nissan is likely to focus on the smaller front-drive versions of the family, so as to avoid conflict with the larger Cabstar light truck.
“Don’t let a van do a truck’s job” says the slogan on the two Nissan Cabstars on the stand – a dropside pick-up and a curtainside van. And the biggest Nissan LCV is doing well for Nissan as it has few rivals in the market between 3.5 and 7.5 tonnes. Nissan will sell around 650 this year, with a wide range of bodies. “It’s a long way from the classic local builder’s truck,” said Nissan van chief Francis Bleasdale. “There are now several wheelbases and a crew-cab version, and the dealers have become much more engaged in selling the vans.”
Probably the closest rival for the Nissan Cabstar is now the Fuso Canter light truck, which also starts at 3.5 tonnes and extends right up to 7.5. Sales are strong, says Mercedes-Benz truck director Sam Whitaker, following a decision to sell the Mitsubishi-built Fuso range through all Mercedes truck dealers. “Now it’s everybody’s responsibility to sell Canter,” he said. Other initiatives include a “Club Canter” for owners and low-rate 1.75% finance deals. “We sold 800 in 2010 and we should do the same this year if supplies hold out,” Whitaker added. A Euro 5 Canter 7C150 with crew-cab and dropside body looked good on the Mercedes stand, and next year a two-pedal automatic transmission will be added.
Mercedes also worked with specialist bodybuilder Bevan to create this slippery Luton van body, the Bevan Icon, built on to a Mercedes Sprinter chassis cab. The lightweight GRP body has been designed at Cranfield University using the latest computational fluid dynamics techniques – a kind of virtual wind tunnel – to optimise aerodynamic efficiency. Fitted to a 3.5-tonne GVW Sprinter 313CDI with 125PS engine, its light weight gives an excellent 1.2 tonne payload. For details, visit www.bevangroup.com.
Fiat Grande Punto Evo van
There isn’t a lot of choice these days in the hatchback van market, though Ford, Vauxhall, Peugeot and Fiat all keep a presence in the market. New at the show was a facelifted van version of the Grande Punto, which now gains the ‘Evo’ nose that was added to the Grande Punto car range last year. Load carrying ability is the same as before, with 1.0cu m of space. Power is from a 1.6-litre 95PS multijet diesel, with stop & start. On sale from June, the van is being supplied to Aston Villa Football Club – though that probably didn’t go down well with Brummie show visitors who support the local team that plays in blue…
Gerry Clarke, boss of Fiat Professional
In fact, all the vans on the Fiat Professional stand were “liveried up” in the colours of major customers – including BT, Dyno-Rod, Robert Wiseman Dairies and Severn Trent Water. “More and more operators are trying our product,” said Fiat Professional UK boss Gerry Clarke. “The liveried vehicles are a way of giving something back to our customers.” New products due this year include a factory-built Doblo Cargo dropside pick-up, which should be an interesting and unique offering in the market. Clarke also said the recent offer of £9,995 on the Fiat Scudo had been extremely successful. “We sold 100 vehicles in a very short time, and we may repeat the offer later in the year,” he said.
Van makers are getting all businesslike – and Peugeot Professional’s new corporate identity is designed to reflect this. However, unlike Volkswagen, Peugeot doesn’t plan to create a separate network for its vans – though you can expect to see the new signs at all Peugeot dealers that sell vans. Fleet sales boss Phil Robson said Peugeot was still selling most vans before they reach the dealers thanks to some big fleet orders – such as the Royal Mail’s big order for the Bipper small van. But, he noted: “Small business users are still deferring new van purchases.”
Citroen Business Class
The Citroen and Peugeot ranges are inextricably linked, of course – but Citroen’s business play is a lot more light-hearted, with its stand decked out like an airport, and hospitality girls dressed as air hostesses to reflect the ‘Business Class’ advertising slogan. New tradesman-focused vans such as the Dispatch Tradesman, features a high standard specification at a price of £16,385. Other ‘Tradesman’ specials are planned for 2011.
Ford Super Sportvan
Ford has gained a cult following for its Transit SportVan, the sporty-looking van with alloy wheels and bold tracing stripes. SportVan has been sold in several limited-edition runs – currently you can buy a red one with white stripes. And Ford has taken the concept a stage further with Super Sportvan, which marries the smallest and lightest Transit body with the most powerful available engine – a five-cylinder 3.2-litre that puts out 200PS. It’s not as extreme as the old Supervan Transits, which used Formula One Cosworth engines – but this one-off looks good, with its racing alloys and discreet body kit. Go on Ford, you know the punters will want one!
VW Caddy Racer
The Super Sportvan may be hot – but it wasn’t the hottest van on show. That honour must surely go to the VW Caddy racer – the world’s fastest RAC van. The new van is based on the facelifted Caddy, and it was unveiled at the show. It’s due to be driven again in the VW Racing Cup series by Simon Elliott, boss of Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles UK. Its 2-litre petrol engine develops 270PS and 512 Nm of torque.
Trukrax debuts prototype rear loading system
Trukrax, the internal racking specialists, had a prototype rear loading system on display for the first time to gauge interest. According to Scott Finding, Truckrax sales and marketing manager, “the interest has been phenomenal”. Scott says the company will go ahead with full testing before an autumn launch. Also on display was the Trukrax internal racking system (from £299) and an updated version of its top-loading system which debuted at last year’s CV Operator Show, costing from £845. “The new top-loading system features a sleeker design,” Scott added.
The innovative Roadload U-tail body was one of the stars of last year’s CV Operators’ Show, and the company was back again this year – showing off a version of the demountable delivery vehicle that has been on test with Tesco. Based on a version of the Peugeot Boxer chassis cab with independent rear suspension and no rear transaxle, the Utail body can be dropped flat to the floor in just 6 seconds and the chassis-cab can drive off and leave it there. It’s ideal for removals companies as heavy items can be loaded flat without the need for a tail-lift.
The CV show had a real business feel – but we know how much you love your classic vans and trucks, and there were plenty of classic commercials for visitors to get all misty-eyed over, as well as The Scammell Register who had a stand.
AA Minor Van
Remember when these were everywhere? The AA used to operate hundreds of Minor vans – but few of these hard-working vans survived. So the AA enlisted the help of the DVLA to track down a survivor. The AA knew the registration numbers of its old vans – and the DVLA searched its database for survivors. The search threw up only two – and the AA was able to acquire this one, which has been lovingly restored. Note that it’s not a Morris Minor – like many BMC vans, it’s badge-engineered and wears an Austin logo.
AA Morris Ital Van
The AA had to track down the Minor – but it showed more foresight with this Ital – it came straight off the fleet and into the AA’s own collection, which accounts for its excellent state of preservation and low mileage. Never as popular as the Minor, the Ital van is now a rare survivor. Just make sure Top Gear don’t try and drop a piano on this Marina-based van!
VW Type 2 van
The split-screen Transporter first saw the light of day in 1949 – and stayed in production more or less unchanged until 1967, when the ‘bay window’ Type 2 replaced it. This lovely van dates from 1954, and was restored last year. It was on VW’s own stand, alongside the latest Mk5 Transporter. Amazingly, the ‘bay’ Transporter is still in production today in Brazil, though it’s no longer powered by an air-cooled engine.
Ah, a mechanical horse. These three-wheeled light trucks were invented in the 1930s to replace horse-drawn drays used by railway companies to ferry goods from railway stations to local customers. The Scammell Scarab here was designed in 1948 and produced until 1964 – they were a regular sight in Britain’s cities until the late 1970s. This one has been restored by a member of the Scammell Owners’ Club.
ERF C15 Flatbed
Many names have disappeared from the British motor industry – among them ERF, founded when Edward Foden left the company that bore his family’s name to set up just down the road in Sandbach, Cheshire. This lovely pre-war C15 truck is one of the oldest surviving ERF trucks. Operated by J Leech of Crewe, it didn’t stray far from where it was made.
Foden eight wheelers part 1
Not to be outdone, Foden enthusiasts brought several vehicles to the show- including a pair of eight-wheelers preserved and restored by Coventry truck operator Pearsons. Flatbed VKP722 dates from the 1950s…
Foden eight wheelers part 2
…while the newer tipper UYE256 has a beautiful streamlined cab. Nice work – and the company has a few more classic Fodens under restoration too!