Hey, guess what! The Hiace tops the charts
WHEN IT COMES TO WRITING ABOUT VAN SALES in New Zealand, you could pretty well get away with one sentence – or even two words: Toyota Hiace. Because, despite the Toyota workhorse’s now almost outdated layout – cab-over-engine/forward control – Kiwi transport and minibus operators seemingly can’t get enough of the old warrior.
In April, Toyota New Zealand sold 206 Hiaces, a monthly total that has become the norm over the past year or so, with the occasional spike or fall.
That was more than twice the number sold by the second-placed van manufacturer, Hyundai which registered 90 in April.
Year-to-date, the Korean van was second, too, with 371 registrations, 602 behind the market-leading Hiace.
Ford’s multi-model Transit range was in third place in April, recording 70 sales. Year-to-date to April, it sat on 253 registrations which put in into fourth place.
The two distinct models in the range – the mid-sized Custom and the big Cargo – will get a sales boost in the second half of the year when the first automatic gearbox-equipped versions hit the market.
New Zealand is a market skewed heavily towards automatic transmissions, even in commercial vehicles, and the lack of an automatic Transit has hampered the nameplate’s sales.
The new Transits get a six-speed fully automatic gearbox, along with side wind stability control to counter blustery conditions, and the latest version of Ford’s in-vehicle communication system, Sync.
It’ll be intriguing to see whether the auto option will allow Ford to take the fight back to the iload.
Fiat professional’s big Ducato was fourth in April with 65 sales, and held third year-to-date with 284. But in both totals most of the Ducatos were motorhomes – 62 in April and 273 YTD.
In fifth place in April was the LDV V80, the bigger of Chinese manufacturer SAIC’S two vans.
The front-wheel drive V80 is sold with a six-speed automated manual transmission (AMT) or a six-speed manual that replaced the previous five-speeder early this year.
The six-speed manual is mated to a new Euro 5 version of the V80’s four-cylinder VM Motori turbodiesel engine, and the resulting van is impressive (see road test in this issue).
LDV registered 44 V80s in April, and year-to-date to April 30 had sold 224, again giving it fifth place.
Mercedes-benz’s Sprinter large van, another vehicle that’s popular as a motorhome, was sixth in April, logging 36 registrations: 16 of them were motorhomes.
It was seventh year-to-date to April 30 on 149 registrations of which 67 were motorhomes.
Its results criss-crossed those of LDV’S second van, the rearwheel drive mid-sized G10 which achieved 34 sales in April and 165 year-to-date.
LDV markets the G10 in four versions locally – a naturallyaspirated, five-speed manual 2.4-litre petrol version; a 2.0-litre petrol turbo with a six-speed automatic and a 1.9-litre turbodiesel with a choice of six-speed manual or six-speed automatic gearboxes.
It has a cargo volume of around five cubic metres which outs it
into a niche of its own between the six cubic-metre vans like the Hiace ZL and the city vans. The newly-arrived diesel auto is sure to boost sales.
Volkswagen’s well-regarded T6 Transporter mid-sizer came in eighth in April with 30 sales, and it was in the same spot YTD with 122 registrations. VW has added a price-leading model, the Runner, to the T6 range and it lists at just under $40,000.
VW’S big van, the Crafter, found five buyers in April and Volkswagen NZ sold 43 in the first third of the year. An all-new Crafter was due to hit the market in June.
Fellow German brand Mercedes-benz sold six Vito mid-sized vans during April, and had retailed 43 by April 30. The Vito is sold in pure van and five-seater Crew Cab versions.
Chinese brand, Foton, registered seven of its Hiace ZX lookalike CS2 vans and motorhomes in April. Ebbett Foton which has the vans fitted-out in Hamilton, sold two of the motorhomes during the month. The CS2’S YTD sales sat at 29 of which seven were motorhomes.
Iveco sold three Dailys during April, and YTD registrations to April 30 were 32; half of them were motorhomes.
April was a lean sales month for Renault, with neither the accomplished mid-sized Trafic nor the Kangoo city van recording a registration.
The brand, which is a major player in Europe and sells strongly in Australia has struggled to gain even a toehold here, especially in the crucial mid-sized van segment.
Year-to-date to April 30, the Trafic sat at five registrations and the Kangoo – sold here in both petrol- and electric-powered versions – was on three.
We’ve yet to test the Kangoo, but we found the Trafic good enough to make it the winner of our first-ever van of the year award.
Why it doesn’t sell is difficult to fathom; maybe the fact that it’s offered only in long-wheelbase manual gearbox form is a factor.
So, too, may the highly-individualistic styling play a part, as it does with the Mazda BT-50 in the ute segment. The fact that Renault has not traditionally been a player in the New Zealand
LCV market may also be a factor in the dismal sales.
But it’s a sweet-driving, refined and highly-practical van with carlike handling and ride quality. You might shrug your shoulders and say: “go figure.” We have and we’re still mystified by the Trafic’s lack of sales traction.
The third of the French brand’s trio of musketeers, the big Master, the Porthos of the group, is the only Renault that is making any market impact. It has really hit its straps in the past couple of years after months of looking virtually saleproof.
It can be expected to build on the solid 89 sales it racked up in 2016. It’s finding favour with luxury shuttle operators and as the base for motorhomes, and with tradespeople and urban delivery operators.
And Hamilton-based body-builder Action Manufacturing has built a prototype box-body delivery van based on the platform-chassised version of the Master. It showed the van at the THE Expo at Mystery Creek in March.
The platform cab/chassis – popular in the vehicle’s home market of France as the basis for food trucks – allows a very low loading height and provides a flat floor on which to base bodywork. Action sees strong potential for the vehicle.
Renault NZ sold four Masters in April and YTD sales at April 30 stood at 17 (three were motorhomes), an average of four vans a month – well down on the 2016 sales rate, but with initiatives like the Action Manufacturing design and the availability of the platformchassised version, the Master has the potential to become much more than a minor player.
The New Zealand van line-up of fellow French brand, Peugeot, is in a state of limbo after Sime Darby sold the distribution rights to the Armstrong Group which has new car dealerships nationwide.
Armstrong has yet to say whether it will import the all-new midsized Expert, and what the future holds for the competent Partner city van.
The Partner, has sold in small numbers in recent years, though well short of the vehicle’s potential and in April Peugeot NZ moved two of the small front-drivers. YTD sales to April 30 sat at eight.
The city van segment forms a small niche in New Zealand where operators still tend to favour mid-sized six cubic metre vans even if they don’t need that capacity.
The two French brands have struggled for sales in this segment, but – in relative terms – Volkswagen is thriving.
Where the French vans – especially the Kangoo – have somewhat polarising styling, Volkswagen’s Caddy has more conventional looks.
The VW, sold in short- and long-wheelbase forms (the latter is the Caddy Maxi) and with 1.2-litre or 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol engines, is the dominant player in the NZ city van market.
Volkswagen NZ sold nine of the nippy and fine-handling Golfbased vans in April and had moved 59 in the first four months of 2017.
Facing page top: Toyota’s Hiace continues its remarkable run at the top of the van sales ladder. Facing page bottom: Hyundai iload has settled into second place in the New Zealand van market. Above: Ford Transit will gain an automatic gearbox option in the second half of this year.
Abowe left: Mercedes-benz Sprinter sat in sixth place in April van sales. Abowe right: Big Master is the best-selling van in Renault’s range. Bottom: Foton CS2 sells in small numbers, offers a lot of van for the money.