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LCV market back on heat
Commercial vehicle market rebuilds after pandemic-related slump
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30 Aug 2021
By NEIL DOWLING
AUSTRALIA’S light-commercial vehicle market has been a steady growth segment since the economy moved out of the global financial crisis of 2009.
During the second economic disruption of the past decade, segments within the category are showing strength again as it crosses through the COVID-19 period and finds demand for its products as consumers embrace legislated stay-at-home regulations.
The trend line is up but it is not all good news. Figures from the first seven months of this year show that larger vans, in particular, will have sales better than the previous decade as delivery needs continue to ramp up.
Australia’s light van sector, depleted by a reduction in the number of players and affected by the more favourable economies of operators owning bigger vans to increase load capacity, has taken a hit and conversely, 2021 may be its worst year of the past decade.
The increasing movement of people and cargo has also benefited the light bus segment, which is estimated to rise to the same highs as just prior to the GFC, while the larger 20-seat and over bus category has dwindled.
This large bus sector has been hit by social distancing requirements that initially reduced demand for their services, while the same requirements have bit into the tourism sector.
On top of this, there has been a swing for tourists to move to personal transport rather than group transport.
The ute market keeps on performing well as demand for the movement of goods, the ongoing use of utes by trades in a growing construction economy, and the ute remaining a vehicle of high interest by private buyers.
Sales of 4x4 utes are still climbing and in 2021 the segment is estimated to more than double volume compared with a decade ago. Additional players have also joined this segment, in that time which has also attracted more buyers.
However, the 4x2 ute sector is weakening. Demand remains high – there were almost 27,000 sales last year – but the estimated 30,000 units to be sold this year are a long way short of the 52,000 4x2 utes sold a decade ago.
Again, there are fewer 4x2 utes to choose from in the market. This sector has barely any private buyers who seek a leisure vehicle, especially since the departure of Holden Commodore and Ford Falcon based models.
Buyers may want more features in their work ute and the limited range of 4x2 utes can easily push them into the more expensive 4x4 category that offers greater choice.
Model offerings in the van sector have altered in the past decade, with six small vans (under 2.5-tonne GVM) available in 2011 and only three available now. These are the Renault Kangoo (45 per cent market share year-to-date); Volkswagen Caddy (36.4 per cent); and Peugeot Partner.
Peugeot’s baby van has also taken over the duties of the Citroen Berlingo, which has been retired from Australia as a rationalisation move by local Peugeot-Citroen distributor Inchcape Australia.
The sector has seen the end of models including the Fiat Doblo, Suzuki APV and Holden Combo and shows the shift to the bigger 2.5-tonne to 3.5-tonne GVM vans with newer entrants including the reborn Mitsubishi Express.
There are now seven light bus models with fewer than 20 seats – compared with three in 2011 – dominated by the Toyota HiAce with an 80 per cent share.
But the segment is being shaken with new entrants including the LDV Deliver 9 bus, the Ford Transit bus and the Volkswagen Crafter bus.
In the ute sector, the year-to-date 2021 figures show the 4x2 market has the Toyota HiLux as the major sales winner with a 38.5 per cent share, followed by the Isuzu D-Max (20.9 per cent) and Ford Ranger (13.7 per cent).
The 4x4 category now has 20 models and has the Ford Ranger as the top seller with a 22.9 per cent share, followed by the Hilux at 21.9 per cent and then the Mitsubishi Triton with 11.1 per cent.
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