Category Archives: Van News

News and articles about UK vans – especially information relevant to the van hire market. Coverage of new van model launches from all the major manufacturers – Ford, Mercedes, Volkswagen, Peugeot, Fiat and Citroen.

New van sales fall 5.6% in March as Ford retails #1 spot

 

New van registrations fell by 5.6% to 59,674 in March, according to the latest figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

The biggest decline was seen in the 2.5t-3.5t sector, where new registrations fell by 10.5% to 59,764 vehicles. This is by far the largest segment of the market, accounting for around two-thirds of all van sales.

Van registrations March 2018

Van registrations March 2018 (source: SMMT)

Commenting on the figures, Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said:

“A decline in the important plate change month of March is a concern and we need the right economic conditions to restore market stability and encourage buyers to invest in new commercial vehicles. The new van market is a key barometer of business confidence and while uncertainty remains, a degree of fluctuation in demand is to be expected this year.

Ford stays on top

Although new sales may be falling, Ford’s number one spot in the market remains unassailable. The Blue Oval supplied more than one in three of all new LCVs registered in the UK in March, as these figures show:

Best-selling vans March 2018

Best-selling light commercial vehicles, March 2018 & year-to-date. Source: SMMT

What’s next?

The decline in new van registrations isn’t great news for new van dealers. But looking at this chart of registration numbers since 2012, I can’t help thinking that the natural level for new van sales is probably a little lower than the current level.

UK van registrations 03/12 - 03/18

UK van registrations March 2012 – March 2018 (source: SMMT)

In 2012, the UK was coming out of a deep recession during which many van purchases had been delayed. That backlog was cleared between 2012 and 2016, resulting in a terrific surge in sales. But it now seems logical that annual sales might fall a little. My feeling is that the natural level of registrations might be a somewhere just below 340,000 per year.

Please let me know what you think, especially if you disagree!

PSA/Vauxhall van factory in Luton

Van hire fave Vauxhall delivers Brexit win with Luton factory upgrade

PSA/Vauxhall van factory in Luton

The existing Vauxhall Vivaro plant at Luton will be expanded to produce 100,000 vehicles per year by mid-2019.

The UK’s uncertain progress towards Brexit has left many of our homegrown automotive businesses concerned about the future.

But the new owner of Vauxhall and its European sibling Opel plans to increase investment in the group’s Luton plant in order to increase LCV production capacity from 60,000 to 100,000 vehicles per year by mid-2019.

The factory is currently the home of the Vauxhall Vivaro, the only volume-manufactured van that’s still built in the UK.  Many van hire firms and operators like to buy British, so it’s good news that the choice of UK-built vans is likely to increase following the changes to this plant.

More new vans built in UK

French firm PSA Group plans to invest in the Luton plant to enable it to build LCVs based on the firm’s EMP2 (Efficient Modular Platform) vehicle platform. Vans already based on this platform include the Citroën Berlingo, Vauxhall/Opel ComboPeugeot Expert and Toyota ProAce, plus various passenger derivatives of these vans.

EMP2 is a core part of the PSA product lineup and is also used for a number of popular Peugeot and Citroën cars including the Peugeot 308, 408, 3008 and 5008 and the Citroën C4 Picasso, C5, DS7.

The end of the Vivaro as we know it?

Today’s press release said the group was targeting “100,000 vehicles per year based on PSA Group’s EMP2 platform”. At present, that doesn’t include the Vivaro, which has historically been a joint venture between Opel/Vauxhall, Renault and Nissan.

However, reports suggest that the next-generation Vivaro will be built on the EMP2 platform. This should secure future production of the Vivaro at the Luton plant, maintaining its long history as “the home of the Vivaro”.

A coup for Luton?

Overall,m this news seems to be a coup for the Luton plant. I believe it should guarantee the factory’s for some years to come.

PSA says that the group’s proven expertise at building vans and its existing paint shop helped swing the deal. A “responsible social dialogue” with the Unite union is also said to have guaranteed “production flexibility”.

Peugeot Boxer Low-Floor Luton

Peugeot launches Built for Business van conversions

Peugeot Boxer Low-Floor Luton

The Peugeot Boxer Low-Floor Luton, one of six conversions that are now available to order from Peugeot dealers.

Peugeot has joined the growing band of van manufacturers offering customers the chance to order van conversions directly from its dealers.

The French firm’s Built for Business range includes six conversions on the Peugeot Boxer 335 chassis:

  • Tipper
  • Dropside
  • Luton
  • Low-Floor Luton
  • Box body
  • Curtainside

The standard specification for the conversions is likely to prove attractive to operators:

  • 160hp 2.0-litre BlueHDi engine with Start & Stop (S&S)
  • Six-speed manual transmission
  • Air conditioning
  • Uprated battery
  • Revised dual-leaf rear suspension with anti-roll bar

In this post I’m going to take a closer look at the two conversions I believe are most likely to be of interest to van hire companies and removals firms.

Luton

Of particular interest to van hire companies will be the luton model. This has been engineered to provide competitive payloads and good volume.

The luton is available on either the L3 or L4 models (L4 is longer) with a single cab.

Both models use an aerodynamic luton design to improve fuel economy. The body is built with GRP panels on a steel frame, although buyers can opt for an aluminium frame, which will provide an extra 80kg of payload.

Here are the standard weight and dimensions* for the Peugeot Boxer Luton:

Model L3 Single Cab L4 Single Cab
Wheelbase 4,035mm 4,035mm
Internal length 3,480mm 4,150mm
Internal width 2,057mm 2,057mm
Internal height 2,235mm 2,390mm
Volume 16m3 20m3
Payload* 1,147kg 979kg

Low-Floor Luton

The other model that’s likely to be of particular interest to van rental firms and removals companies is the low-floor luton, which is pictured at the top of the page. By dropping the load floor between the wheel arches, operators can get a useful increase in internal volume without sacrificing payload.

(Some van rental companies have low-floor lutons for hire — if you’re moving house yourself, it’s worth asking. They’re sometimes also known as high-cube, jumbo or dropwell lutons)

Here’s how the low-floor luton compares to the standard L4 luton model:

  • Internal length: -7cm
  • Internal width: +10.3cm
  • Internal height: +11cm
  • Internal volume: +2m³
  • Payload: +71kg

The payload of the low-floor luton can increased by a further 120kg if you opt for lightweight body panels in place of the standard 14mm GRP panels.

Here are the full weights and dimensions* for the Boxer Low-Floor Luton:

Model Low Floor Luton
Internal length 4,080mm
Internal width 2,160mm
Internal height 2,500mm
Overall height 3,200mm
Overall length 6,570mm
Payload* 1,050kg

All of the Built for Business conversions will have either European Whole Vehicle Type Approval or National Small Series Type Approvals.

All models are available to order from Peugeot Dealers and Business Centres.

*Notes on payload, weights and dimensions: All weights and dimensions were provided by Peugeot. Peugeot calculates payload (excluding driver) including oil, water, lubricants, tools, spare wheel and 90% full fuel tank. When calculating the payload, an average figure for the driver is 75kg (Please note: drivers’ weights will vary). Additional passengers and accessories must be taken into account. It is the operator’s responsibility that the plate weights are not exceeded. Please note: Masses and Dimensions are subject to 8% engineering tolerances.

MS-RT Transit Custom

MS-RT gives Ford Transit Custom rally-inspired makeover

MS-RT Transit Custom

The MS-RT conversion of the Ford Transit Custom adds motorsport styling to the UK’s most popular van.

The Ford Transit Sport vans offer a decent slug of motorsport styling for van operators. But if you’re looking for something to take your next Transit Custom to the next level, the new MS-RT Transit Custom conversion from Welsh firm MS-RT could be just the ticket.

MS-RT says it’s taken inspiration from the Ford-backed M-Sport rally team to achieve “a performance version of the country’s most popular commercial vehicle”. 

The modified van is based on the new 2018 Transit Custom, which is just starting to be delivered to early buyers. MS-RT Founding Director, Ed Davies, says their conversion creates a van owners will cherish:

“The new MS-RT Transit Custom takes an already excellent van and turns it into something really special, which owners are bound to cherish, and which businesses will use to make their brands really stand out.

Head-turning styling

On the outside, the van gets a comprehensive body kit, including a full front bumper and grill replacement with factory-fitted fog lights. There’s also an “extreme front diffuser” side sills, wheel arch extensions and matching rear spoiler and diffuser. The van also gets a British-made twin exhaust system and MS-RT branding.

In order to tighten up the van’s handling, these replacement wheels are paired with a set of Eibach lowering springs. These are paired with exclusive 18-inch Antracite OZ Racing alloys, but MS-RT has taken care to ensure the van retains its load-carrying ability.

These show-stopping wheels are shod with 103XL load-rated Hankook Ventus S1 evo2 tyres, which have been chosen to maintain the van’s 3.5t gross weight.

Impressive spec list

MS-RT’s modifications continue inside the van, which gets handcrafted nappa leather and suede seat facings, a MS-RT sports steering wheel and carbon fibre inlays. There’s even a MS-RT set of floor mats.

All vehicles come with an impressive stock specification. Vans are fitted with Ford’s SYNC3 entertainment system with sat nav, a reversing camera and parking sensors. There’s also heated seats and upgraded HID headlights, plus Ford’s ever-popular heated windscreen.

Under the bonnet MS-RT has specifies Ford’s range-topping 170PS EcoBlue 2.0-litre diesel engine This provides 405Nm of torque and can be paired with your choice of six-speed manual or automatic ‘box. A standard choice of cabin layouts is available, including five or six-seat crew cab, long or short wheel base and tailgate or twin rear doors.

Prices have not yet been announced — more information should be available in April 2018.

Mitsubishi L200 Barbarian SVP II

Mitsubishi Motors UK launches special vehicles Mitsubishi L200 Barbarian SVP II

Mitsubishi L200 Barbarian SVP II

The Mitsubishi L200 Barbarian SVP II

Mitsubishi Motors is adding a new model to the popular L200 range with the release of the special edition Barbarian SVP II.

Produced by the firm’s Special Vehicle Projects division, this this version of the Barbarian is customised with a two-tone colour scheme and upgrades to the already generous standard specification.

Additional features include 17-inch bespoke alloy wheels with BG Goodrich all-terrain tyres, wheel arch extensions and a new SVP grill and roof rails. This Barbarian will also get SVP tailgate badging and extra trim, including ‘shark fin’ side steps and a colour coded bumper. More usefully, there’s also load bed illumination and a soft-opening tailgate.

Inside, this special edition model gets six-pack leather seats with faux-suede inserts and orange stitching and piping. Each SVP II model also has its limited edition number and the SVP logo stitched into the headrests.

Mitsubishi L200 Barbarian SVP II interior

Inside the Mitsubishi L200 Barbarian SVP II

This SVP spec comes in addition to standard Barbarian features such as the Mitsubishi Smartphone Link Display Audio system Bluetooth, Bi-Xenon headlights, cruise control and keyless entry.

As with all L200 models, power comes from a 2.4-litre alumnium turbodiesel linked to the Super Select 4WD system. This allows on-the-fly switching between 2WD and 4WD at speeds of up to 62mph.

Order books are now open with first deliveries expected in May. The L200 Barbarian SVP II starts from £29,830 +VAT and is available in black and grey versions.

New van registrations February 2018

New van market bounces back in February with 6.4% gain

Ford Transit Custom

The Ford Transit Custom is the UK’s most popular new van.

After ending last year on a down note, new van sales came roaring back in February with a surprise 6.4% increase, compared to the same month last year.

According to figures released this week by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), new van registrations rose by 6.4% to 14,135 units in February. Demand grew most strongly in the 2.0-2.5t van category, which clocked up a 20% increase. This might indicate a major fleet order was completed during the month.

New van registrations February 2018

New van registrations February 2018 (Source: SMMT)

According to Mike Hawes, the SMMT’s chief executive, uncertain market conditions mean that further volatility is likely:

 “February is typically a quiet month as buyers await the March plate change so the rise in demand is welcome news. However, with so much uncertainty in the UK at the moment and weak business confidence, we can expect further fluctuations in demand for the rest of the year.”

The UK’s top-selling vans

Market conditions may be more uncertain, but van buyers’ favourite models have remained fairly predictable. The Blue Oval has retained its commanding lead at the top of the best seller list, with the Ford Transit Custom and Ford Transit accounting for almost 25% (8,521) of the new vans registered so far in 2018.

Here’s the top 10 best seller list for February and 2018 to date:

Top-selling vans Feb 18 and YTD

The top-selling vans so far this year (source: SMMT)

I suspect that a good number of these vans, especially the Ford, Mercedes and VW models are now in the hands of van rental firms. Good news for drivers who’ll get to work behind the wheel of some of the best and most sophisticated vans ever made.

Mercedes-Benz X-Class X 350 d 4MATIC

V6 Mercedes-Benz X-Class breaks cover at Geneva Motor Show

Mercedes-Benz X-Class X 350 d 4MATIC

The Mercedes-Benz X 350 d 4MATIC boasts V6 power and a range-topping specification.

The ‘ordinary’ four-cylinder Mercedes-Benz X-Class pickup has been on sale in the UK since October. But a car like this is screaming out for a big-engined model with all the trimmings.

Mercedes has now obliged, unveiling a V6-powered 258hp X-Class at this week’s Geneva Motor Show. The X 350 d 4MATIC boasts a 0 – 62mph times of 7.9 seconds and permanent four-wheel drive. Maximum torque is a stump-pulling 550Nm.

There’s no doubt this is will be a capable beast as well as a prestige buy. So what will lucky buyers be getting if they splash out on this range-topping model?

Tech spec

The X 350d 4MATIC is powered by a 3-litre turbocharged V6 diesel engine that promises to deliver 258 horses and 550 Newton metres of torquing between 1,400rpm and 3,200rpm. This pulling power is transferred to the road via the 4MATIC permanent all-wheel drive system with a rear-biased 40:60 torque distribution.

As standard, this version of the X-Class will be fitted with the 7G-TRONIC PLUS automatic gearbox. Drivers will be able to choose from five driving modes — including ComfortSport and Offroad — as well as three different four-wheel drive modes.

Broadly speaking, the 4MATIC system can be tailored for on-road use with “increased vehicle dynamics” (4MAT), improved off-road traction (4H) and low-range mode for serious off-road work (4L). A 100% differential lock is also available for the rear wheels if required.

Impressive credentials for off-road use include a fording depth of up to 600mm, the ability to deal with 1:1 gradients and an approach angle of 29 degrees. Raised suspension packages are also available to improve the pickup’s off-road abilities.

What’s inside?

Inside you get the full Mercedes-Benz treatment. This may technically be sold as a light commercial vehicle, but there’s no doubting the manufacturer’s luxury car credentials:

Mercedes-Benz X 350d 4MATIC interior

Inside the X 350d 4MATIC it’s 100% Mercedes luxury but with rugged overtones.

Drivers choosing the upmarket POWER trim level will get LED High Performance headlamps, a part-leather dashboard and matching seats in ARTICO man-made leather and DINAMICA microfibre. Naturally these will be electrically adjustable. Music, navigation and communications will be taken care of with the Audio 20 CD infotainment system, which also contains a permanently installed SIM card providing access to services including Live Traffic, Emergency Call and Maintenance Management.

Keyless-Go and THERMOTRONIC two-zone air conditioning are both standard on the POWER model.

Anything missing from the standard spec is probably on the option list. There’s no word on how much this model will cost yet, but as usual with these things, if you have to ask, you might not be able to afford it.

2018 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter

New Sprinter promises to be safest, most connected van

2018 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter

The new 2018 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter – available to order now for delivery from June.

The new Mercedes-Benz Sprinter is now available to order, for delivery from June onwards. Prices for the new Sprinter model will start from £24,350 +VAT.

The new van breaks new ground for Mercedes and also for the van industry, with a string of firsts:

  • First Sprinter available with front wheel drive
  • First van model fitted with 9G-TRONIC 9-speed automatic transmission (FWD models)
  • “Most advanced connectivity solution ever fitted to a van” — Mercedes PRO will provide 18 connected services customers can choose from at the time of launch
  • Sector-first safety features, including Active Brake Assist with pedestrian protection
  • MBUX – Mercedes-Benz User Experience. Carried over from the firm’s cars, the new Sprinter will get a 7-inch touchscreen as standard with features including DAB radio, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and steering wheel touch pads.

Range & Powertrain

The new Sprinter will be available in three wheelbases, four vehicle lengths, three roof heights and chassis van models.

There will also be a tourer (minibus) and a tractor head model for motorhome converters. This is basically a cab + front wheels with no chassis or rear wheels, allowing for a purpose built motorhome chassis to be fitted to the rear. It’s a sign that Mercedes is trying to go head-to-head with FIAT, whose Ducato model dominates the growing motorhome market.

Buyers will be able to choose between four-cylinder and V6 diesel engines, in line with the current engine lineup. FWD models will be available with the firm’s nine-speed automatic gearbox, while RWD models will have the option of a seven-speed auto.

Safety, Comfort & Connectivity

The firm has also raised the bar in terms of comfort. Keyless Start, multi-function steering wheel, the Mercedes MBUX infotainment system and improved storage. Personally I like the look of the new cab and drivers choosing the automatic option will get plenty of walk-through space from the driver’s seat – great for motorhomes.

New Sprinter cab interior

Inside the new 2018 Sprinter.

There are big steps forward on safety, too.

One of the flagship safety features of the new van will be Active Brake Assist with pedestrian protection. This can brake the van automatically to avoid rear-end collisions and pedestrian collisions.

Other new features include Attention Assist (drowsiness detection), an Emergency Call system that dials 999 in the event of a crash and Rear Cross Alert, which brakes the van if an obstacle is detected while reversing.

Features aimed at fleet operators include built-in telematics services such as Eco Monitoring (fuel consumption) and Theft Management, which monitors the alarm and pre-defined geofences. Location data and servicing parameters can also be monitored.

Still the best?

It seems very likely to me that the new Sprinter will remain the class of the field in terms of safety, performance and quality. It will be interesting to see how many front-wheel drive models are sold — will operators abandon rear-wheel drive to cut weight and lower the floor?

LVT Transport Luton with 1 curtainside

Can I hire a van like this? A Luton van with one curtainside

LVT Transport Luton with 1 curtainside

LVT Transport of Pontyclun operates an unusual luton with one rigid side and one curtainside.

Most van hire companies offer luton vans with standard rigid boxes.

A handful of rental firms also offer 3.5-tonne curtainsiders, which are basically luton vans with canvas sides that can be pulled back to allow loading and unloading from the side of the vehicle.

Curtainsiders are useful for wide loads and those which need to be loaded by a fork lift, rather than a trolley jack or manually.

But I don’t think any rental firms offer vans offering the best of both worlds — one rigid side and one curtainside.

Pontyclun-based LVT Transport specialises in kitchen and furniture delivery for major retailers. With new customers coming on board in 2018, founder Ceri Leigh has invested in additional vehicles for this year.

One of these is a Sprinter 314 CDI on a long wheelbase that’s been fitted with a luton body with one rigid side and one curtainside.

This unusual configuration allows 3.0-metre wide loading access for forklift trucks, while preserving the traditional luton advantages of rigid sides with load securing restraints. The van will be used by the firm’s uniformed two-man delivery teams, who provide a ‘white glove’ service, positioning, unpacking and assembling furniture for customers before removing all packaging.

Like most Sprinter owners, Mr Leigh waxes lyrical about the quality and reliability of Mercedes-Benz vans:

“We purchased a Sprinter five years ago which now has 320,000 miles on the clock, and is still on its original engine, gearbox and clutch. It has never let us down. That’s nothing out of the ordinary, though – it’s just what we’ve come to expect. So good has that vehicle been that while it’s no longer covering the whole country, we’re keeping it for local deliveries.”

Mr Leigh teamed up with co-owner and fellow Director Amy Van Tiel in 2013, when they rebranded the company as LVT Transport.

In 2016 the two broadened their service offering by forming LVT Warehouse & Distribution – they started out with 3,500 sq ft of storage space but so successful has the new venture been that since then they have more than tripled the total capacity, and plan to have in excess of 30,000 sq ft of warehousing before the end of 2018.

Mercedes-Benz Sprinter

New Mercedes-Benz Sprinter unveiled – first pics

Mercedes-Benz Sprinter

New 2018 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter

Mercedes-Benz has unveiled the latest generation of its popular Sprinter van. As promised, the new model offers a wide range of telematics and safety systems then ever before.

The new model also offers an incredibly wide range of configuration options — no fewer than 1,700 different versions can be specified, including panel van, minibus, pickup, chassis cab, bus or traction head only.

The company is making a bold move to maintain its position as the van of choice in the logistics and supermarket sectors, but also targeting a greater presence in the motorhome sector, currently dominated by the Fiat Ducato.

To this end, Mercedes will be introducing its first ever front-wheel drive Sprinter models. Rest assured, however, as the standard rear-wheel drive and popular all-wheel drive variants will still be available. As before, most models will be 3.5t, but weights up to 5.5t will also be available.

Technical details are fairly limited so far, but we do know that an all-electric model will follow in 2019. In the meantime, here’s a picture showing the inside of the new van:

Mercedes Sprinter new interior

Inside the new Mercedes-Benz Sprinter. I like the minimalist but functional appearance.

The new Sprinter will be available across the UK Mercedes-Benz van dealer network from June 2018, with the eSprinter to follow in 2019.