Hey, guess what! The Hi­ace tops the charts

New Zealand LCV - - COMMERCIAL MARKET | VAN SALES - BY MIKE STOCK

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.

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