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Market Insight: Renault leads Euro van contenders

Can do: Renault’s Kangoo is on a role this year with a 150 per cent boost to 528 sales to the end of September.

Renault, Fiat Professional taking the light commercial fight to Toyota , Hyundai


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24 Oct 2014

FRENCH car-maker Renault is leading a new charge of European-built offerings in the increasingly busy light-commercial van segment, as it seeks to chip away at the dominance of Toyota and Hyundai.

Renault is one of a number of European brands making their presence felt in the light-commercial market, alongside Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen and newer fare such as Fiat Professional.

In recent years, more established nameplates such as Toyota’s HiAce and the Hyundai iLoad have dominated sales in the 2.5 to 3.5 tonne light van segment and while they continue to own the segment, sales have plateaued as the new guard slowly chips away.

So far this year, Toyota has sold 4875 HiAces, which is a 1.0 per cent shift upwards from last year, while the iLoad is up by 11.4 per cent to 3359 units to the end of September.

In that period, Renault’s Trafic van has lifted by 45.5 per cent to 1075 sales and the Fiat Scudo has increased by 53.3 per cent to 233 units.

While they are still well off the pace of the HiAce and iLoad, the Europeans, particularly Renault, are aggressively targeting fleets and business buyers that have traditionally gone for the Japanese or Korean options.

Renault Australia corporate communications and sponsorship manager Emily Fadeyev told GoAuto that demand for the French brand’s LCVs, especially the Trafic, is helping boost its overall sales into record territory.

“It’s (the Trafic) doing incredibly well,” she said. “Commercial vehicles I think represent about 40 per cent of our volume this year. We are doing incredibly well in the three segments we play in. The only thing that will slow us up is we just always want more.”

It is a mixed bag for other players in the segment, with Ford selling 493 units of its Transit Custom – that launched in late February – so far this year, while the Mercedes-Benz Vito is down by 11 per cent to 672 sales and the Volkswagen Transporter has also lost ground, down 31.7 per cent to 1000 units.

Aside from the Transit, almost all of the offerings in the segment are long in the tooth, with some due for replacement soon.

The iLoad has been around since 2008 with no replacement on the horizon and Toyota’s HiAce has been around in fifth-generation guise since 2004.

Mercedes-Benz’s all-new Vito is due next year and Ms Fadeyev confirmed that the new-generation Trafic will arrive in local Renault showrooms in the first half of 2015.

Interestingly if Holden decides to expand its light-commercial portfolio, it would almost certainly be with a rebadged version of the Opel Vivaro, which is a twin under the skin to the new Trafic as a result of a co-development between Renault and GM.

Some of the new Euro guard are making gains in the larger commercial van/cab chassis segment which has previously been the domain of the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter.

Renault’s expanded Master range is up 49.4 per cent so far this year with 820 sales, while the Fiat Ducato remains steady with 0.5 per cent growth and 774 sales.

Volkswagen’s Crafter is down by 53.8 per cent to 245 units, and all contenders trail the still dominant Sprinter which is up 28.5 per cent this year to 2000 units.

Things could get interesting if Hyundai decides to build its recently revealed H350 cargo van in right-hand drive configuration and offer it in Australia, as it could benefit from the fleet business it has already built with the popular iLoad.

As for Renault, more variants of the Master are set to arrive next year, including a 12-seater bus that would compete with the Sprinter, HiAce and Transit buses as well as a potential rival in the form of a Chinese-built LDV 14-seat hauler.

Renault also recently entered the motorhome market with a cab chassis version of the Master.

At the smaller end of the LCV scale, the Europeans are dominating the sub-2.5-tonne van segment, with Suzuki’s APV the only Japanese contender on offer.

Volkswagen’s Caddy is the main player with a whopping 56.5 per cent market share and 1465 sales year to date, but Renault’s resurgent Kangoo has picked up the pace with a 150.2 per cent boost for 528 sales in the same period.

Citroen’s Berlingo has also risen by 60.2 per cent, although volumes are much lower at 197 units. This makes the Berlingo the equal best-selling Citroen so far this year, matching the January to September haul of the Grand C4 Picasso people-mover.

Renault is currently trialing an electric version of its Kangoo with its fleet partner Australia Post to determine the viability of adding it to its local LCV line-up.

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