Hi­ace con­tin­ues in­vin­ci­ble sales run in 2017

New Zealand LCV - - COMMERCIAL MARKET | 2017 VAN SALES - BY MIKE STOCK

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.

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