Hiace continues invincible sales run in 2017
HISTORICALLY, DYNASTIES THAT RULE EMPIRES and countries don’t last forever; there’s always some wannabe potentate or upstart prince waiting to claim the throne.
It’s the same with fashion; what’s in one year will be out the next.
Cars or types of car are the same. The five-door hatchback replaced the four-door sedan; the station wagon gave way to the big Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV); the double cab ute is replacing the big SUV, the crossover SUV with its higher ride height is displacing the hatchback on which it’s based.
The beat, as they say, goes on; the hottest item this year will be cold – or at best, lukewarm – next year.
But in the New Zealand van market there is no sign of any challenge to the reigning monarch – there’s not a potential usurper in sight.
The Toyota Hiace retains a lead that is apparently unassailable. No other vehicle comes close, despite the fact that the Japanese van uses an outmoded cab-over-engine layout that perches the driver above the front wheels making for a reasonably high climb into the cab and a drop down to the ground when getting out.
The old warhorse isn’t the best-riding – the short wheelbase ZL comes down off speed humps with a jolt – nor is it the most mechanically refined.
Its on-road handling and roadholding are good, however, and it will turn on a dime making it very manoeuvrable in the streets and alleyways of big cities. Its load space is also practical, and the bigger of the two, the long-wheelbase ZX, can carry more than 10 cubic metres of cargo.
But though there are much more modern, more comfortable, better equipped and nicer to drive vans around, Kiwi van operators have stayed true to the Hiace and the Toyota reputation for reliability, robustness, durability and whole-of-life running costs. Even a high mileage Hiace will fetch a good price when it’s sold on.
Toyota sold a phenomenal 2961 Hiaces during 2017, all but 17 of them diesels. That was an increase of almost 400 over the 2600 it retailed in 2016.
The Hiace’s 2017 total was 2031 more than the third-placed Ford Transit racked up.
The Hiace seems secure and sales show no signs of slowing; in fact in some months of 2017 they were around 300 – as against typical monthly Hiace sales of 200 give or take a few either side.
Last year’s second biggest-selling van nameplate was Fiat Professional’s big Ducato; but the runner-up slot is thanks to the Italian truck’s popularity as the basis for motorhomes.
In 2017 a total of 1091 Ducatos was registered in New Zealand, and 1038 were motorhomes, many of them imported fully built-up from Britain or Europe.
Fiat Professional – the Italian carmaker’s commercial vehicle arm – has engineered the Ducato to be easy to convert into a mobile home, and it’s the most popular chassis with European motor caravan makers.
Judging by the number you see on NZ roads, it holds a similar position with NZ motorhome users.
The growth in the motorhome market was reflected by last year’s lift in Ducato registrations which were 277 ahead of the 761 logged in 2016.
The front-drive Ducato is very easy to drive, and as a van provides excellent cargo capacity aligned with strong performance and good fuel economy.
Fiat Chrysler NZ retailed 53 van variants in 2017, a drop of 11 from the 64 sold the previous year.
Another European van range, the multi-model Ford Transit line, took third place in 2017, leapfrogging past the Hyundai iload.
Ford sells the Transit in mid-sized Custom and full-sized Cargo variants, with the former the more popular.
With its six cubic metre cargo capacity, the Custom is well suited to courier and tradesperson use, its compact dimensions and making it easy to manoeuvre on city streets and the low roof version will fit underground carparks.
Transit sales got a boost during 2017 with the introduction of the first-ever automatic gearbox versions. They were launched at the National Fieldays in June but global demand for the selfshifters led to supply shortages.
However, by the end of the year, Ford had sold 930 Transits,
150 more than the 780 it did in 2016. With a full supply of auto versions, that total can expect to be exceeded in 2018.
Another European van, Mercedes-benz’s big Sprinter was in fourth place on last year’s sales ladder.
Like the Ducato, it’s popular as the basis for motorhomes, and 585 of the 896 registered in 2017 were mobile homes.
Sprinter motorhome registrations were 100 ahead of the 2016 total, but van sales dropped from 342 to 311.
Hyundai’s mid-sized iload was NZ’S fifth biggest-selling van in 2017, though its 858 sales were more than 150 lower than the 1012 the model recorded the previous year.
The iload has been fighting a sales battle with the Transit for the past few years and each has held the upper hand.
The iload was ahead in 2016 when it was the second best-selling van, though the arrival of the automatic versions – and some supply constraints on the Hyundai – allowed the Blue Oval product to lead its Korean arrival last year.
The iload is liked for its car-like driving characteristics and is popular with tradespeople. Though it’s big – overall length, 5150mm – the Hyundai’s cargo capacity is at the lower end of the mid-sized van segment. Where most rivals can carry six cubic metres, the iload has a 4.4 cubic metre cargo volume.
That makes it a good choice for operators who don’t want a vehicle with surplus space.
In sixth place was a van which has seen sales rise steadily in the four-plus years it’s been on the NZ market.
When it arrived, the LDV V80 was an unknown quantity from a non-traditional vehicle making nation, China. The original vehicle was developed jointly by British van maker. LDV, and Korean manufacturer Daewoo, the former bringing its van expertise to the party, the latter its knowledge of front-wheel drive technology.
General Motors axed Daewoo’s involvement after it bought the ailing Korean outfit, but LDV persevered and brought the van to production as the Maxxus.
But LDV hit financial problems and the rights to build the Maxxus passed into Russian hands before being bought by a Chinese company.
In turn, current LDV brand owner, giant Chinese automotive company, SIAC, bought the rights to produce the Maxxus and put it into series production. It’s sold here as the V80 because the Maxxus name is registered by a tyre maker.
Taupo-based Great Lake Motor Distributors markets the V80, and has a growing stable of dealerships that also retail Great Lake’s other brand, Ssangyong.
Great Lake markets three V80 van variants here, labelled Big, Bigger, and Biggest with cargo volumes that start at six cubic metres and rise to 11.6 in the biggest of the three.
There are also cab/chassis and minibus variants and waiting in the wings are all-electric EV80 vans and cab/chassis.
The V80 sells on a mix of ability and sharp pricing – buyers get a lot of sheetmetal and carrying capacity for their money.
They can choose between six-speed automated manual (AMT) or six-speed manual gearboxes, the latter introduced with the mandatory for 2017 Euro 5 version of the VM Motori 2.5-litre inline four-cylinder turbodiesel.
The six-speed manual which came on-stream early in 2017, transformed the V80. Its closer ratios enabled drivers to make the most of the Italian-designed motor’s 110kw of maximum power and 360Nm of peak torque.
Cab-over-engine layout means Hiace isn’t the easiest van to get into and out of – but it’s a favourite with couriers nonetheless.
Toyota Hiace continued its absolute domination of NZ van market in 2017.
L eft: Fiat Ducato is second-biggest van nameplate in NZ regos but most are motorhomes, not cargo vans. Right: Ford Transit sales have increased since first-ever automatic versions arrived. This is mid-sized Custom.
All-electric EV80 is expected to join LDV’S NZ range later this year, both van and cab/chassis versions.
Top: Volkswagen’s T6 Transporter mid-sized van continues a tradition that began in the late 1940s. Below: Hyundai’s iload delivers car-style driving manners and 4.4 cubic metre load space.