Hi­ace ver­sus the rest in Bat­tle of the Vans


FRANKLY, THE NEW ZEALAND VAN MAR­KET IS A ONE-HORSE race, with a bolt-away leader.

De­spite its out­moded cab-over-engine lay­out and lev­els of re­fine­ment and ease of op­er­a­tion that lag be­hind many more mod­ern ri­vals, the Toy­otas Hi­ace is the only game in town.

The other seven­teen vans that make up the cur­rent mar­ket are scrap­ping over the mi­nor money.

The Hi­ace has been New Zealand’s top-sell­ing van for knock­ing on 20 years, and over the past cou­ple of years sales have risen steadily.

In 2014, the Toy­ota’s days had looked num­bered. It lacked elec­tronic sta­bil­ity con­trol (ESC) which was due to be­come manda­tory on July 1 of the fol­low­ing year, and pun­dits sug­gested Toy­ota couldn’t re-engi­neer the Hi­ace to ac­cept it.

But the Ja­panese au­to­mo­tive giant’s en­gi­neers did and when the Hi­ace with elec­tronic sta­bil­ity con­trol de­buted in 2015, it was back on the shop­ping list of safety-con­scious buy­ers.

ESC may have helped Hi­ace sales to rise in 2015 and again in 2016. The 2015 rise was only 50 sales, tak­ing the to­tal to 2497, but last year it more than dou­bled that in­crease, sell­ing 113 more than it did in 2015 to achieve 2600 regis­tra­tions.

The trend is con­tin­u­ing in 2017, and the Hi­ace is show­ing no signs of re­lin­quish­ing its mar­ket dom­i­na­tion any time soon.

The real bat­tle is for sec­ond place, and it’s be­ing fought be­tween the Hyundai iload – which cur­rently holds the up­per hand – and the Ford Tran­sit range.

Hyundai fresh­ened the iload in 2016, and by De­cem­ber 31 it was in sec­ond place, record­ing 1012 regis­tra­tions.

Tran­sit sales dropped slightly in 2016, to 760, but with the de­but of au­to­matic gear­boxes in the mid-sized Cus­tom and the big Cargo it can be ex­pected to haul in more buy­ers. The bat­tle for sec­ond place is by no means over.

The Ford fell to fifth place, be­hind two name­plates whose suc­cess is helped by their pop­u­lar­ity as mo­torhomes.

The marginally bet­ter-sell­ing was the Mercedes-benz Sprinter, though the big Ger­man’s 827 regis­tra­tions were boosted by 485 mo­torhomes.

In fourth place was the equally large Fiat Pro­fes­sional Du­cato with 822 regis­tra­tions of which 761 were mo­torhomes, many im­ported fully built-up.

LDV’S V80 re­tained sixth place in 2016, though the van’s yearon-year sales growth was spec­tac­u­lar, with to­tal regis­tra­tions of 619.

The V80 sells largely on price – buy­ers get ex­cel­lent load space for rel­a­tively few dol­lars – but it’s also com­pe­tent, and easy to han­dle.

LDV’S other van, the rear-wheel drive G10 is a much more mod­ern de­sign. It’s a smaller van – load ca­pac­ity is a lit­tle over five cu­bic me­tres, com­pared with the small­est V80’s six.

LDV mar­kets four vari­ants of the LDV – a nat­u­rally-as­pi­rated petrol man­ual, a tur­bocharged petrol au­to­matic and a diesel with a choice of man­ual or au­to­matic six-speed gear­boxes.

LDV sold 387 G10 last year, but the diesel auto didn’t ar­rive till Fe­bru­ary this year. In eighth place was one of the best mid-sized vans on the mar­ket, the Volkswagen Trans­porter. The T6’s styling

is an evo­lu­tion of the T5’s, but the

the newer van picks up the VW “face” that has be­come fa­mil­iar from the ul­tra-suc­cess­ful Golf hatch­back car. VW sold 278 Trans­porters in New Zealand dur­ing 2016, and 270 of them were T6s.

An­other ul­tra-ca­pa­ble VW, the front-wheel drive Caddy city van, was in ninth place with 151 regis­tra­tions.

VW New Zealand has stan­dard­ised on petrol mo­tors for the Caddy, rea­son­ing that there’s lit­tle fuel econ­omy dif­fer­ence be­tween the gaso­line burner and the diesel.

Ital­ian truck maker Iveco’s Daily van re­flects the brand’s heavy trans­port her­itage, with body-on-frame con­struc­tion, rear-wheel drive and a ro­bust feel.

Iveco is reap­ing the suc­cess of savvy mar­ket­ing and ad­ver­tis­ing to sell solid num­bers of trucks, and the same is hap­pen­ing with the Daily van and cab/chas­sis.

Last year it slot­ted into tenth place with 116 sales. Of those, 53 were chas­sis for mo­torhomes.

Re­nault’s big Master van had a stel­lar 2016, with 88 reg­is­tered. That was a big rise over the 19 sales that the French truck made in 2015.

Chi­nese brand, Fo­ton, reg­is­tered 71 of its Hi­ace Zx-look alike CS2 vans in 2016. It’s pow­ered by a 2.8-litre, Chi­nese-built Cum­mins diesel mo­tor driv­ing the rear wheels through a Ge­trag man­ual gear­box. It’s frac­tion­ally big­ger than the Hi­ace ZX and of­fers a sim­i­larly cav­ernous cargo space.

Just one reg­is­tra­tion be­hind the Fo­ton was Volkswagen’s third van, the Crafter which shares its chas­sis and body­work with the Mercedes Sprinter but the run­ning gear is Volkswagen’s. The model was on run-out in the clos­ing weeks of 2016, in prepa­ra­tion for the ar­rival of an all-new, all-vw Crafter.

Seven regis­tra­tions be­hind the Crafter, on 63, was Mercedes­benz’s ac­com­plished mid-sizer, the Vito.

And one reg­is­tra­tion be­hind the mid-sized Mercedes was Re­nault’s city van, the Kan­goo which is sold here in petrolengined and all-elec­tric ver­sions. Air New Zealand has bought 28 of the lat­ter for use in its on-air­port fleet.

Dis­tri­bu­tion of the other French player in the NZ com­mer­cial ve­hi­cle mar­ket, Peu­geot, has just changed from Malaysia-based Sime Darby to NZ ve­hi­cle re­tail giant, the Arm­strong Group.

Arm­strong has yet to an­nounce its plans for the Part­ner city van and the Ex­pert mid-sizer. Peu­geot sold 37 Ex­perts and 15 Part­ners last year.

Re­nault’s third van, the Trafic, found 12 buy­ers in 2016. That to­tal was a mix of the last of the old mod­els in Re­nault NZ’S stock, and a hand­ful of the new model which was launched dur­ing the year.

Toy­ota is in a race of its own on the NZ van mar­ket, out­dis­tanc­ing the op­po­si­tion eas­ily.

Above left: Hyundai iload is sec­ond best-sell­ing van. Right: Ital­ian brand Iveco is mak­ing good progress on NZ van mar­ket.

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