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Volkswagen introduces LCV conversion program

New factory-backed conversion program to offer VW customers choice and convenience

22 Nov 2019

VOLKSWAGEN Group Australia has introduced a new light-commercial vehicle conversion program that comes with a full factory-backed warranty and a number of different applications to suit a wide range of customer needs.


Rolling out a program that is already available in other markets, the conversion solutions come backed with Volkswagen Australia’s five-year new-vehicle warranty, with servicing and repairs able to be carried out at authorised Volkswagen dealers.


To mark the launch of the program, VW this week rolled out a number of examples of its conversion solutions to show the potential applications of the new program.


Several examples of the Crafter large van were shown, including a 15-seater bus based on the long-wheelbase, high-roof model that was co-developed by New South Wales-based manufacturer Amtek, as well as a 12-seater medium-wheelbase version.


The new Crafter minibus will be targeted towards tourism operators and other similar businesses, and opens new doors for the brand given that previously its highest-capacity vehicle was the Caravelle people-mover, which could seat up to nine occupants.


All Crafter Minibus grades use an eight-speed automatic transmission, but can be had in any of the Crafter range’s varying engine tunes.


4Motion all-wheel drive is available on the medium-wheelbase grade – making it the only AWD minibus on the market – and this can be optioned with a rear differential lock and hill-descent control.


Another Crafter vehicle was shown, this time a long-wheelbase single-cab chassis model fitted with a box body at the rear, developed by UK-based company Ingimex.


Using a composite glass material for the box body, Volkswagen’s truck is nearly half a tonne lighter than a comparable body built from wood, and while the design for the box body was made in the UK, all bodies going forward will be built in Australia.


The Box Body Crafter is available with the TDI340 and TDI410 grades, and can be specified with three different GVM levels.


A 500kg-rated, locally developed tail lift is available as an option, as is a chassis-mounted tail lift which has an expected lift capacity of 1000kg.


Volkswagen Australia Commercial Vehicles national marketing manager Nick Reid said he expected the new conversion program to benefit the Crafter the most, with an uptick in sales expected for its largest van offering.


“(With) this program, we’ve got lofty sales ambitions for Crafter, and part of those sales are actually on the back of the conversion program, so the conversion program will allow us to stretch the Crafter volume for sure, and also in the other products as well,” he said.


“Vans over the next few years will play a bigger role in the commercial vehicle line-up and sales ambitions.”


A new Tiguan variant, called the Proline, has been introduced, a five-seat Allspace variant aimed primarily at emergency services first responders.


Following Victoria Police tenders for the Passat Proline wagons, the Tiguan Proline is powered by the 162kW/350Nm 2.0-litre petrol engine with all-wheel drive, and features specific equipment such as sports suspension, off-road bumpers with increased approach and departure angles, a larger alternator and an adjustable load floor.


A long-wheelbase version of the Amarok pick-up has also been introduced with the conversion program, also targeting emergency services (see separate story).


Mr Reid said the decision to bring the conversion program to Australia – one that has taken years of planning and approval – was partially the result of customer demand, with Volkswagen seeing an opportunity to streamline the customisation process.


“We build, especially on the vans side of our business, we build the majority of our products to customer order, so in that feedback we found that our customers were not just buying the products off us and using them, but were getting them off us then taking them to the next level and customising them to their own needs, so we saw a gap in the market,” he said.


“While firstly we saw an opportunity to have a better customer experience, and then we saw this gap to make it a business model which looked after customers and gave them a solution.


“(It’s) quicker to market, a solution that was covered by us and had full warranty, and also a competitive price as well because of the scale that we can offer.”


The conversion process can be completely customised according to individual customer requirements, and all Volkswagen dealers across the country will have access to sell the converted vehicles.


Mr Reid said the minibus was expected to be the best-selling conversion, and could add up to 300 units of annual volume to the brand’s bottom line.


“The bus market in Australia is about 3000 per year, so at the moment that’s dominated by the HiAce and the second major player is the Sprinter, so automatically there we currently hold a 10 per cent market share for Crafter in the van space, so if we can get 10 per cent of the bus space, that’s instantly 300 units,” he said.


“And our Crafter numbers – we’re really trying to grow the Crafter business, because Crafter is a huge opportunity for us.


“So I think that is a big win in the short run, and then trade applications around Pantech truck bodies, trays, it was also a big opportunity for us as well.”


The conversion program will also become available on the Transporter medium van, but the Caddy small van is unlikely to benefit from the program due to its limited scope for customisation.


Mr Reid said the program would benefit both large and small fleet buyers.


“I think that the opportunity for growth is in every market for this car,” he said. “There’s definitely opportunities in the emergency services which is dominated by one brand at the moment.


“There’s obviously opportunity with the large fleets, if you look at someone like Australia Post, they have one of the largest, if not the largest fleet of commercial vehicles in the country.


“But at the same time there’s the small to medium enterprises (SMEs), the backbone of Australian businesses is SMEs, the florists, the bakers, the tradies, (there’s a) huge opportunity for us with those small fleets.


“That’s where our dealer network plays a huge part, but also our conversion program, because we can offer Pantech bodies, refrigerator programs, tray packs, to customers, and they can walk into the dealership, order the car, and don’t have to worry about having a conversation with a third-party supplier about the solution and then they have a relationship with their dealer.”

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