Published on Friday 12 April 2019 in Van News
Vanarama's resident LCV expert Tim Cattlin takes his weekly tour through all the major news, views and gossip from the industry.
Great Wall Rising From The Ashes?
Anyone remember Great Wall? You're forgiven if not. Back in 2011 the UK importers for Isuzu and Subaru added the Chinese built Great Wall Steed to their portfolio. A budget 4x4 pick up, it was aimed at buyers who would normally only consider a used truck.
I was fortunate enough to test the first one to land on our shores and, well, it was OK-ish, but the build quality and driving experience left a little to be desired. With no Euro 6 engine on offer, the brand disappeared from our shores in 2016.
This week, Great Wall has released details of a new electric truck with a claimed range of 310 miles. No news yet as to whether the vehicle will ever reach the UK, and as the dealer network has been disbanded that seems unlikely. Although it looks smart from the photos, I'm unsure as to how the customer who uses a truck for commercial and off-road purposes will take to an electric drivetrain. With the instant torque available, it could be an interesting proposition though.
On The Up…
Good news this week for the van industry – registrations in March were 10.6% up compared to the same month last year – and, year-to-date the increase overall is 8.9%. This is in stark contrast to the car market which is having a tough time right now.
Van sales have always been a reliable indicator as to the level of business confidence and the strength of the economy. Despite all the current 'goings on', fleets and small businesses are continuing to invest in new vehicles rather than extend change cycles or even reduce fleet sizes. Great news.
It could be speculated that this performance is down to a tactical pre-Brexit pre-registration exercise by manufacturers. I've spoken to my own contacts in the industry and, apart from one manufacturer who has been reasonably active, there is little sign that the figures have been distorted significantly. The rolling year total graph clearly shows that the very gentle decline which commenced three years ago seems to have been reversed.
Over in Turin late last week, Iveco unveiled the latest incarnation of the Daily. As usual with these regular facelifts the manufacturer has given the van a new front, but otherwise most changes are around tech. To catch up with the progress that Ford and Mercedes-Benz have made in this area Iveco have added some of the latest safety, connectivity and telematic technology to the van with which, in theory, they can now compete with those traditional market leaders.
I've spent a lot of time in Italy with Iveco senior management, and they fail to understand why the success of the van in many European territories is not replicated in the UK. It's a very capable workhorse, but the driving experience is more akin to a small truck than a modern van. I'm guessing that, until the van is completely redesigned from the ground up, no number of facelifts will be enough to see the Daily trouble the likes of Ford, Mercedes and Volkswagen in the 3.5-tonne van market.
The New Transporter Breaks Cover…
Although I posted a picture of the Transporter T6.1 in passenger carrying form a couple of weeks ago, Volkswagen chose a plant and machinery exhibition in Munich this week to show the van version 'in the metal'. They've also used the occasion to tell us more about the changes that we'll see in the new van, including the adoption of electromechanical power steering.
The significance of this is that it allows for the introduction of new safety and driver assistance technology such as park assist, lane assist, side protection and rear traffic alert. Connectivity is improved with an integrated SIM card, although VW are being coy for now as to what services will be on offer.
230-volt power is now available in the cab, and finally Volkswagen have developed a facility for long loads to be pushed through from the loadspace and under the passenger seat.
The engines have been made Euro 6D compliant, power outputs ranging from 90PS to 199PS. The previously discussed all electric model will also be launched in T6.1 guise.
A Solution To 'Relay Theft'?
A couple of weeks ago I mentioned the increasing threat to van security from relay theft – remote interrogation of a 'keyless' fob that's normally intended to be near the vehicle before it can be unlocked or started.
Ford have developed what looks like a genius solution to this. The latest Fiesta cars and vans are being supplied with a fob which has motion detector technology. Put simply, if the fob detects no movement for 40 seconds it shuts down, and hackers are unable to retrieve the code. Hopefully, if adopted by all the manufacturers this could see an end to this particular type of hi-tech vehicle theft.
According to the European Commission, out of all the 28 member states Romania is the most dangerous country to drive in (based on the rather macabre sounding 'highest number of road deaths per one million people' metric). Surprisingly, the United Kingdom is the safest.
If the report was purely based on the standard of driving in Bradford, we'd be romping up the charts…