Hard row to hoe for French vans
FRENCH BRANDS REMAIN SMALL PLAYERS IN THE NEW Zealand LCV market – like all European cargo haulers they struggle to make much impact in a market dominated by the Toyota Hiace.
Despite their more modern design, user-friendliness and generally very good – in some cases car-like – handling qualities, Euro vans have a tough row to hoe in a country where the Toyota has become embedded in Kiwis’ psyches.
Renault vans were the only French products to sell in August, and combined sales only amounted to 22.
The best-selling of the three Renaults offered in NZ was the biggest, the Master, which is offered in van, cab-chassis and front-, rear-, and four-wheel drive versions.
There’s a choice of wheelbases and roof heights, and the low roof, short-wheelbase Master fitted with a six-speed automated manual gearbox (AMT) is offered as a self-shifting alternative to Renault’s manual-only mid-sized Trafic.
Renault sold 16 Masters in August, giving the van 11th equal place with the similarly-sized Volkswagen Crafter.
The Master sold consistently during the year’s first eight months, with 52 finding homes by August 31. That was close to double the 28 retailed during the same period of 2016.
The big Renault is gaining ground in New Zealand, and Hamilton truck body builder, Action Manufacturing, has developed delivery van box bodies based on the Master chassis.
The Action Manufacturing bodies are built using the company’s self-manufactured Omni Panel fibreglass sheets. The bodies are fitted to Renault’s specialised platform chassis that is widely used on Master-based food vans in France.
A Luton-style extension above the van cab is shaped to encourage air to flow smoothly over the box body’s aero dynamicallytape red roof to help reduce fuel consumption. An optional fold-down loading ramp at the rear of the cargo space stows vertically when the van is moving.
Renault’s mid-sized Trafic is something of a sales enigma in New Zealand.
The third-generation Trafic is a highly-accomplished van with a range of innovative and thinking-outside-the-square features that earned it our Van of the Year title for 2017.
But since its arrival on the market in mid-2016, the Trafic 3 has struggled for sales. Its whole-of-year 2016 sales total of 12 included several Trafic 2 models on run-out.
The Trafic 3 is available only with a six-speed manual gearbox and in long-wheelbase format – the latter so it can achieve a cargo capacity of six cubic metres – and those factors may hinder sales.
Renault NZ sold three in August and 15 by August 31, a total far lower than the van merits, though it’s well ahead of where it was a year ago.
Renault’s third LCV is the Kangoo city van which is available in petrol and all-electric versions. The latter has found favour with companies wanting to project a green image, and Air New Zealand has bought more than 25 for its on-airport fleet.
A new version of the petrol Kangoo is due to debut, and sales have been modest during 2017, with three retailed in August and 15 in the first eight months of the year.
Peugeot vans’ future on the New Zealand market is unclear following the change of distributorship from Malaysia-based Sime Darby to New Zealand Auto Distributors, part of the Armstrong Group.
Two mid-sized Expert vans have been registered so far this year, and to the end of August, 21 Partner city vans had been sold. Three of the latter were sold in August.
Right: Renault’s Master is the biggest-selling French van in NZ. Like other Euros French brands have to fight hard to get a foothold. Bottom: Peugeot Partner is typical European city van – its future on the market is unclear.