Hard row to hoe for French vans

New Zealand LCV - - NEWS FEATURE | FRENCH VANS - BY MIKE STOCK

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.

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