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AUSTRALIA’S GUIDE TO UTES, VANS, LIGHT TRUCKS & PEOPLE MOVERS

www.deliverymagazine.com.au

ISSUE 51 DECEMBER/JANUARY 2014 RRP: $7.95

ISSUE 51 DECEBER / JANUARY 2014

SINGLE CAB Delivery Magazine is an AFMA Strategic Alliance Partner

FOTON TUNLAND


FEATURE

MASTERFUL Renault finally takes the Australian market seriously and, consequently, starts reaping the benefits

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here’s huge potential for the European LCV manufacturers within the Australian market, but it is only there for the taking if the manufacturer concerned puts in the right degree of effort. Fiat, Renault, Peugeot and Citroen have, in the past, languished in the doldrums, and Ford has not fared much better, seemingly having forgotten that it also produces the Transit van range. Now, that scenario looks set to change, at least for those prepared to pick up their act and kick themselves into gear if they are going to close the gap on Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen.

The first two manufacturers to get their act together are Fiat, with the Scudo and Ducato, and Renault, importers of the Kangoo, Trafic and Master. Expect to see a similar flurry of activity with Ford in the first quarter of 2014 as it gets to grips with the new Transit. As far as Peugeot and Citroen are concerned the lights have yet to be turned on at their respective head offices. Although the Chinese manufacturers such as LDV started with a great fanfare of promised activity, they have all but disappeared in the subsequent marketing scrum, finding that the Australian buyer expects much more by way of product sophistication. Although the initial sales were linked to the attractive low introductory pricing, buyers have pulled back from brands such as Great Wall and appear to be returning to manufacturers and importers that offer strong support for their products and higher levels of technology throughout their model ranges. Compared to the Renault Australia attitude of five years ago, the French company is currently kicking goals on a grand scale. It produced 312,000 LCVs globally last year and sold slightly more, at a total of 321,000 units. It’s been Europe’s number-one supplier of LCVS for 15 years.

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As an example of how it has boosted its performance in the Australian market within the past 12 months, the sales statistics show a current retail level of 1,704 registrations, an increase of 77 percent over 2012. Admittedly, its performance prior to 2012 was somewhat unimpressive, but with a brand repositioning and strong pricing competitiveness, the brand’s popularity is obviously turning around, with LCVs now accounting for around one third of all Renault sales in this country. At the small end of the Renault range, the Kangoo is a strong little load carrier and highly impressive in both comfort and driving pleasure. Expect to see an all-electric version land in Australia during the first quarter of 2014 as the company trials its Kangoo ZE in selected inner urban fleet operations. The Kangoo has also just received a face-lifted exterior, and, with a new and more functional interior, plus the debut of a new petrol engine version with manual transmission,


MASTERFUL

numbers and endorsing Pro+, establishing a greater emphasis on service, and specialisation in light commercials and fleet requirements amongst the retail outlets. “We understand that LCV customers have different requirements to passenger car buyers. The vehicle is their lifeblood of their business, and they are very conscious of the total costs of ownership, especially if they run a fleet of vehicles,� he said.

its pricing of $19,990 puts it into the league to attack market leader, the VW Caddy, or indeed to generate new interest into this small van segment. The medium-sized van contender in the Renault stable is the Trafic. This received an update back in 2011 and its distinctive styling really does make for a standout presence in any urban high street. Off the back of these upgrades, Renault has been focusing its attention on product support. As Renault managing director, Justin Hocevar, explained to Delivery Magazine, this involves increasing its current dealership

Expect to see capped-price servicing and the introduction of loan vehicles for customers needing a replacement while their vehicles are being serviced. The process of buying a Renault LCV has also been simplified to that of a one-stop shop, with Renault offering its own vehicle insurance and finance packages, together with linking to interior fit-out specialist companies, able to supply internal racking and shelving systems. Into this newfound activity comes the expansion of the Renault Master range, broadening the brand offering from panel vans to single and dual-cab/chassis models. Technology within the large van range is really interesting at present, with Renault using a front-wheel-drive engine and transmission for its 3.5-tonne GVM rated Master models, but then switching to front engine, rear-wheel-drive for higher 4.5-tonne GVM versions. It’s this higher weight range that is the latest addition to the Master product. The common theme throughout is the Euro V emissions rated, four-cylinder, 2.3-litre, turbo diesel. This a direct injection, turbocharged four-cylinder that is matched to a six-speed manual transmission or a six-speed ZF AMT. Maximum power of 110 kW is produced at 3,500 rpm with peak torque of 350 Nm rated across the rev range from 1,500 to 2,750 rpm.

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FEATURE

olden has increased its attention to its light commercial range with the introduction of a selection of upgrades to the Colorado ute and cab/chassis models. Although the previous Holden Rodeo versions shared much of the engine and driveline with Isuzu developed utes and chassis/cab models, the launch of the Colorado saw a breakaway from this arrangement to result in GM sourcing a different engine and transmission. The Colorado is manufactured in a GM plant in Rayong, Thailand, and uses a VM-Motori engine, which is branded as the Duramax 2. Up until the end of this year the VM-Motori engine company was 50 percent owned by GM, with the remaining 50 percent owned by Fiat PowerTrain. From 2014 onwards that ownership returns in full to Fiat, with the Italian company buying out the GM shareholding. This 2.8-litre, four-cylinder diesel engine and five-speed manual gearbox has not been without its share of criticism, suffering from driveline vibrations that resulted in replacement clutch development. There have also been a series of complaints regarding steering rack problems associated with overheating that resulted in oil coolers being retrofitted. Hopefully, these complaints are now solved, with the Duramax 2 engine gaining an increase in power from 130 kW to 147 kW and an increase in torque output from 470 Nm to 500 Nm (rated from 2,000-2,200 rpm), for the versions fitted with an automatic transmission.

For units fitted with a manual gearbox, the number of ratios increases from five speeds to six speeds. Power also increases from 130 kW to 147 kW, but the torque output is derated to the lower level of 440 Nm (rated from 1600-2800 rpm). Holden has stayed with Euro IV emissions levels for this engine upgrade and not taken the opportunity to move to Euro V. This sees the emissions levels of the 2.8-litre engine fluctuating from a low of 216 g/km of CO2 for the 4x2 singlecab version to peak at 245 g/km of CO2 in the 4x4 crew-cab automatic. The combined fuel economy figure also varies from a best of 7.9 l/100 km to 9.1 l/100 km. The Duramax 2 engine features common-rail fuel injection with a variable geometry turbocharger and intercooler. With a double overhead camshaft design, the engine incorporates a toothed belt camshaft drive with a hydraulic tensioner, and is maintenance-free. The enhanced six-speed automatic transmission calibration uses a 32-bit processor to control shift stabilisation in uphill and downhill modes and grade braking control, preventing unnecessary shifting between gears when travelling uphill, and suitable shifting when travelling downhill to minimise braking. Ratio selection sees 4th gear in the manual at 1.00:1, while in the automatic transmission 4th gear runs at 1.16:1. The 5th and 6th gear ratios in both the manual and automatic transmissions are overdriven, at 0.76:1 and 0.59:1 for the manual and 0.85:1 and 0.67:1 for the auto. The 4x4 versions of the Colorado feature a low-ratio transfer case with a step-down ratio of 2.62:1

Colorado upgrades for 2014 with more power and higher specification 18

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ROCKY MOUNTAIN HIGH

Model Year 2014 Colorado introduces new chassis control systems to the range, such as trailer sway control and hill start assist across the entire range, as well as a descent control system on all models except the DX. Trailer sway control detects any towing instability, activates the brakes and reduces engine torque, ensuring complete peace of mind when pulling a trailer or caravan. The braked trailer towing upper limit for Colorado is 3,500 kg. Hill start assist automatically engages when a gradient is detected and acts to hold the Colorado stationary after the brake is released to give the driver time to apply the throttle. Descent control system is a variable speed system that allows for a smooth and controlled hill descent in rough terrain by controlling the speed of the vehicle without the need for brake input from the driver. To its credit, the Colorado is one of the few utes to be able to claim five-star ANCAP safety rating, which applies to the crew-cab variants. In this category it joins the VW Amarok, Mazda BT-50 and Ford Ranger. Standard features include driver and front passenger airbags and full-length curtain airbags, electronic stability control, complemented by ABS with electronic brakeforce distribution and hydraulic brake assist. Also now included as standard are front/side impact airbags for all LX, LT and LTZ models and rear park assist and a rear camera to the Colorado LTZ.

Colorado gets high level infotainment systems with more power and torque and a six-speed manual gearbox.

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LAUNCH

XENONE W

ant to buy a durable ute, powered by an impressively frugal 2.2-litre, common-rail diesel and backed by the fourth largest automaker in the world? If the answer is yes, then Delivery would suggest taking a close look at a TATA Xenon.

We’ve seen prices of crew-cab utes rocket to the $60,000+ level with Amarok and Navara ST-X, and plunge to $25,990 for a diesel 4x4 V200 crew-cab at drive-away pricing from Great Wall. In the centre of that pricing structure is a plethora of product, and now that choice has increased with the arrival of Indian auto maker TATA Motors. Against the current trend of utes becoming higher off the ground and bigger in the body, the TATA Xenon stays to the typical sizing of the previous model BT-50 Mazda or Holden Rodeo. One of the main reasons for not upsizing to match the Amarok or new BT-50 is that, for many of the markets in which the brand competes, traffic congestion and narrow road access dictates what can be used.

Performance and torque are smoothly supplied from 900 rpm upwards and the torque output is actually constant at 320 Nm from 1,500 to 3,000 rpm. At 1000 rpm the peak torque output is 230 Nm. Controlling the electronics is a Bosch 32-bit electronic control module, and this results in some interesting benefits such as a crankshaft sensor that automatically increases engine rpm without driver input if the load starts to exceed

There’s nothing spectacular about the appearance of the Xenon, unless you take a close look at the Tuff Truck concept vehicle created by the backroom boffins at Fusion Automotive in conjunction with its parent company, the Walkinshaw Automotive Group. With its additional lights, 20-inch alloy rims and altogether collection of added bling, the Tuff Truck has already created comments from Delivery readers interested in knowing if this is going to be a model available on our market. This is perhaps where the introduction of TATA becomes more interesting than being considered as “just another ute”. The DNA of the Walkinshaw Group, and in particular Fusion Automotive, is founded on a passion for vehicles. Managing Director Darren Bowler doesn’t rule out producing a limited production run of the Tuff Truck, nor does he dismiss the idea of marketing selected design and accessory features, once the initial launch is completed. The engine is a four-cylinder, common-rail, Bosch fuelinjected diesel engine matched to a five-speed manual gearbox, both of which are designed and manufactured by TATA. The rear axle is a Dana/Spicer unit. The front suspension is of a double wishbone design with long torsion bars, while at the rear is a set of parabolic leaf springs. For those that revel in figures, the gearbox ratios are 4.1:1, 2.22:1, 1.37:1, 1:1 and 0.77:1 with a transfer box ratio of 1:1 and 1:2.48. A limited slip diff’ is standard and a locking rear diff’ will be optional next year. Although of only 2.2 litres, the performance characteristics of the TATA diesel are quite impressive, thanks to a variable geometry turbocharger and electronically operated wastegate.

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the engine output. What this means is that a driver with low range 4x4 engagement on a steep hill can impress the other occupants in the vehicle by not touching the accelerator pedal as the engine determines sufficient rpm for it to climb the obstacle quietly and without fuss. Electronic stability is added to the vehicle spec from January build in 2014, together with traction control and hill


XENONESQUE

NESQUE TATA Motors fires its first salvo into the established ranks of the ute market and comes up with a strong alternative option Delivery was able to finish the day’s events by taking a 4x4 crew-cab version away from the launch, immediately heading for the Hume Highway and a destination some 750 km away to the North. This provided a good cross section of driving experiences and the opportunity to experience at first hand just whether the package comes together in terms of comfort and onhighway cruising.

hold, leaving the early adopters in 2013 with ABS, driver and passenger front airbags, Bluetooth connectivity and an optional Sat/Nav, reverse camera and park warning sensors. The release to the media took the form of an on-road drive around north western suburbs of Melbourne, followed by a short evaluation over a rough off-road course to check on axle articulation, ground clearance, underbody component protection and ability.

The first impressions of the driver’s seat was that the cushion depth was a little short, the front of the seat squab a little low and the pedal height a little high, as appreciated by a driver of 1.87 metres. Yet, surprisingly, the seat remained comfortable throughout the eight-hour drive, and the steering, handling and suspension were found to be certainly equal to the task. One suggested improvement, though, would be for a length/reach adjustment option on the steering, which currently is only tilt capable. Ergonomically, the standard wiper/horn/turn indicator stalks on the column worked well, and the leather-clad steering wheel felt chunky enough. Cruise control isn’t available yet, but there is a headlamplevelling adjust control via a knurled knob under the righthand side of the dash. Nestling next to this control, and out

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TESTED

DOUB WE COMPARE SEVEN DUAL-CAB UTES, AND PUT JAPANESE, INDIAN AND CHINESE ALTERNATIVES UNDER THE SPOTLIGHT

With such a diverse range of products all competing for the crew-cab segment, but differing greatly in price and performance, this report does not produce an outright winner. It’s more a case of positioning each product where it best sits in the market and then letting the buyer determine whether it’s the right vehicle for their needs.

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ake five drivers, put them on a rotation basis behind the wheel of seven different utes and then have them travel the same route repeatedly. That’s the basis for this comparison where Delivery examines just what works and what doesn’t when it comes to the dualcab market.

This segment is slightly different from our normal perspective of being focused on a work ute, as, with dual cabs, especially those with a high-end specification, there’s obviously an element of family use as a recreational vehicle. Our timescale saw our test team being the first to drive the TATA Xenon and 2014 model Foton Tunland, and seeing how these newcomers performed against the market leading HiLux, plus Mitsubishi’s stalwart the Triton, Mazda’s BT-50, China’s Great Wall, and Delivery’s Ute of the Year the Isuzu D-Max. 42

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There’s never been a better time for considering the old phrase that you get what you pay for. At the entry level in pricing terms comes the Great Wall. A current price reduction with the intention of rekindling sales interest sees the 4x2 dual-cab in 2.4-litre petrol form with a drive away price of $20,990, with a further $2,000 for a 2.0-litre diesel and then a further $3,000 for a 4x4 diesel, making a total of $25,990. Our last experience of a Great Wall was in 2WD singlecab form, and we found that its 2.0-litre diesel, with 105 kW of power at 4,000 rpm and peak torque of 310 Nm between 1,800 and 2,800 rpm, was adequate for a patient driver that wasn’t going to flog it to within an inch of its life on every outing. Certainly not a match for a HiLux, it nonetheless provided a low cost entry-level option that would hopefully provide five or six years reliable service but would not be expected to return a high resale on disposal.


DOUBLE DUTY

UBLE DUTY

We expected similar performance from the 4x4 dual-cab version, but that was not to be. Given that we report what we find, the Great Wall provided for evaluation was let down by what we presumed to be a fault in the engine control module. Engine performance was no match for the previous model tested, making the ute sluggish and unresponsive to the throttle. The behaviour of the engine suggested it had been de-rated, with usable power output only available when the engine reached a minimum of 1,800 rpm and was then subsequently kept above 2,000 rpm for any gear change. A day later, and with the ECM seemingly of its own volition having reconfigured its instructions to the engine, the Great Wall suddenly decided to supply the correct level of power and performance, returning its ability to what was the expected norm.

in 2WD. What this suggests is that reliability comes with a price. Delivery has discussed durability concerns with some Great Wall owners and our experiences do not appear to be unique. Staying with a similar size of cabin and ute tub, but moving from China to India, brings in the TATA Xenon. This is an altogether newer design of vehicle than the Great Wall and comes from the fourth largest vehicle manufacturer in the world.

With a 2.0-litre diesel this was the smallest engine in the comparison, but when performing correctly it is sufficient for its size and weight. But, with full power restored, things were still not 100 percent.

Covered extensively elsewhere in this issue, the TATA benefits from an excellent 2.2-litre, turbocharged and intercooled diesel engine that features a variable geometry turbocharger. Showing its recent development, this is the only engine amongst the evaluation vehicles able to boast Euro V exhaust emissions compliance.

Although featuring 4WD, this was not selectable and refused to connect. Despite our repeated attempts to find either 4WD high range or low range, the ute stubbornly stayed

The Xenon shows in its DNA that this is a model destined for use in less developed countries. By comparison with the DELIVERY

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TESTED

ROUND2

FOR CHINA China comes in for round two in the ute market with the release of the Foton

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reat Wall made all the running for China’s grand entry into the popular ute segment for the Australian market, and now that brand is joined by Foton, a company with a history more involved in medium and heavy trucks.

The Chinese brands are currently being handled by independent importers, a very different way of doing business from an Australian division of the manufacturer itself. This can lead to communication difficulties where the importer doesn’t have the necessary standing with the manufacturer to create specific models to suit our market and has to take what they are given, rather than what they might prefer. There are also secondary problems that relate to the financial commitment behind a private importer in terms of the level of parts stocking and customer support. That said, there is ample evidence these days that some of the major manufacturer-owned brands in Australia have skimped on a commitment to parts stocking in this country, relying instead on a minimum of a three-day supply chain from Singapore. If you want to see a traditional, longstanding involvement in the development of the motor industry, such as the 125 years of Daimler, you are not going to find that type of history with Chinese vehicle manufacturers. What you will find though is the establishment of joint-venture agreements, where the relatively recently established Chinese manufacturer teams with a long established European manufacturer to gain technical insight and ability. Foton was only founded as a company in 1996, but it succeeds as the result of a joint venture with Daimler AG in July 2010, to build the Auman truck range in China with a Mercedes-Benz OM 457 engine built under licence. This is at the high end of the weight range for prime movers and rigid trucks. What makes the entry of Foton trucks into the Australian market more interesting is that the medium and heavy-duty truck business is being handled by ATECO Industries, with the car, ute and van business handled separately by private importer Foton Automotive Australia. 48

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At the lighter end of the truck market sits the Foton Tunland, the first Foton product to enter the Australian market. Still to come are passenger cars, vans and people movers, some of which bear a striking visual resemblance to existing Toyota products, such as the HiAce. The big attraction with Foton comes for those with an affinity for heavy trucks, specifically from North America, and that’s because of the fitment of a Cummins engine under the bonnet. In this case it’s the 2.8-litre, four-cylinder, turbocharged and intercooled version of the red engine that’s built in China at the Beijing Cummins/Foton joint venture manufacturing centre. Delivery has already visited the Cummins/Foton manufacturing centre in China and can confidently state this is a world-class facility that supplies engines to a variety of customers on the Chinese market. With a compression ratio of 17.6:1, this 2.8-litre engine features common rail, direct injection. In 4x2 application this engine produces maximum power of 96 kW of power at 3,600 rpm with peak torque of 280 Nm rated from 1,400 to 3,000 rpm. In 4x4 application the engine rating is for 120 kW at 3,600 rpm with peak torque of 360 Nm is rated through from 1,800 to 3,000 rpm. The engine construction is with a single overhead camshaft with cast iron cylinder head and block assembly.


ROUND TWO FOR CHINA Cummins of course has the benefit of being one of the World’s leading engine suppliers, and it shows in the performance and fuel economy figures with a combined figure of 8.0 l/100 km and 8.3 l/100 km and with an emissions level for this Euro IV compliant engine of 212 and 219 g/km of CO2 (4x2 and 4x4 respectively). Fuel tank capacity is 76 litres. The engine characteristics are excellent, with strong torque supply thanks to the electronic controls of the common-rail fuel injection system. Operating through an electronic pedal, various sensors reporting back to the ECM (Electronic Control Module) provide an automatic engine idle rpm upspeed for when the vehicle is negotiating steep climbs. This means the driver can leave it to the ECM to control the engine rpm, effectively climbing many steep ascents without even touching the throttle pedal.

The transmission for the 4x2 ute on test was the five-speed manual sourced from Aisin/Tangshan, with ratios of 3.831, 2.33, 1.436, 1.0 and an overdriven 5th gear of 0.789. This is matched to a Dana Dongfeng rear axle with a diff’ ratio of 3.9:1, fitted with a limited slip centre. The Tunland comes in two levels of trim, the Quality and the Luxury, with both available with a 4x2 and 4x4 driveline. There’s not a huge difference between the two levels, with most of the upgrade being the audio system. Up the front end you’ll find power-assisted rack and pinion steering, but for a 4x2 the turning circle of 12.5 metres is somewhat excessive, making a 360 degree turn in a carpark more of a trucking experience than perhaps is necessary.

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parties, a g n u B a g n i and the Bluia n o c s u l r e off Silvio Bre for Fiat in Austra s d in m ir e h er get t uld be a good futu v e s n ia l a If the It there co truck maker, is under the same Fiat umbrella and has or over 110 years Fiat has been making commercial vehicles, prompting the question as to why it has taken this length of time before the Italian manufacturer really made any great attempt to market its products in Australia? Actually, that description might be somewhat harsh, as IVECO, the Italian

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a long association with this country, making trucks at its Dandenong plant as well as importing certain models direct from Europe. While everyone can spot a Fiat 500 from 1000 paces, the commercial vehicle division does not enjoy the same instant recognition. However, that position does look as though it may finally change for the better, as the Italian manufacturer launches Fiat Professional, the generic term for most things of a commercial nature around the globe.


BUONGIORNO FIAT

The Australian auto industry has changed dramatically in the past two decades. It’s gone from local manufacturing to the almost universal position of being a full importer. And while Federal Government may seem to have set its sights on providing yet further bags full of taxpayers’ money to the wealthy overseas head offices of the global carmakers, in reality it’s only a temporary placebo to pre-election promises. In place of Fiat relying on its future in the hands of independent importers, the Italians in the boardroom in Turin have decided to spend the money and set up their own sales and marketing operation. Fiat Professional now joins Fiat car, Ferrari, Alfa Romeo and Lancia, Maserati and IVECO. The list of associated divisions doesn’t end there, with Fiat PowerTrain providing engines for most of the group, now backed by engine maker VM-Motori, which, by the end of 2013, will be another wholly-owned subsidiary of Fiat Group. Although that scenario covers off the European members, there is more in the storeroom, with American agricultural giant Case New Holland remaining a strong member of the group, together with Chrysler and Jeep. Heading the Australian operation Fiat Chrysler Group is president and CEO, Veronica Johns, while Robert Moorcroft, a 19-year veteran with Chrysler Group, manages the newly formed Fiat Professional division. Fiat Professional vehicles on sale in Australia are currently confined to the Scudo and Ducato. Overseas, the range is considerably greater than we have been getting here, but, as outlined to Delivery Magazine, there are moves afoot to add in the Doblo small van and larger Ducato-based people movers early in 2014. In 2012, Scudo managed a market share of just 0.7 percent, but within 12 months raised that to 1.3 percent. Ducato also rose in market share terms, from 5.1 percent in 2012 to 7.6 percent in 2013.

As Fiat Professional was establishing its own credentials, it was also working hard behind the scenes to revitalise its dealership representation. This resulted in some razor cutting of existing outlets from 16 back to 9. The new executive team then consolidated these core dealerships with new appointments that have now brought the dealership numbers up to 52 separate outlets, with an estimated 8 more still to be announced. As even the most casual observer might suggest, if you don’t have the dealership commitment and spread of national coverage, you can’t grow the business, and this rapid expansion should go a long way towards promoting much greater brand awareness. Fiat Professional vehicles are manufactured in eight plants worldwide, including the Sevel Sud factory in the Val di Sangro, Italy, which is home to the Ducato and can boast being the largest commercial vehicle plant in Europe. The Scudo is built at Sevel Nord, which happens to be over the border in France. Both factories are joint venture operations with PSA group. The Doblo doesn’t quite make the French connection (or Italian for that matter), being produced at the company’s Tofas plant in Turkey. Doblo is due to launch in the first quarter of 2014, and it’s through this model that Fiat Professional wants to attack the small van market, currently dominated by Volkswagen with the Caddy. Turkey is not such an unusual home for vehicle manufacturing, as, also next year, Ford’s new Transit will be boarding a boat from its Turkish home port on its way to our market. What is slightly bizarre is that Doblo, or its Opel and Vauxhall alternative that Fiat makes for sale as the Combo in the same factory, has not made it here before. In Europe, Doblo uses a 2755 mm wheelbase to provide a 790-litre cargo volume and is diesel-powered by a 1.3-litre MultiJet four-cylinder engine of 66 kW and 290 Nm, optioning up to a 77 kW/290 Nm 1.6-litre, and with a 2.0 litre, 99 kW/320 Nm diesel topping the range. As well as a standard van there’s a high-roof version, an extended-wheelbase version and even a small ute and a people-mover version. But before you get too excited, it’s the standard van for Australia at this stage, with auto and manual transmission linked to a choice of petrol or diesel engines.

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PREVIEW

the

MU-X Isuzu Ute moves into crossover territory and produces a winner

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hailand is fast becoming the Detroit of Asia as more vehicle manufacturers move into the country to benefit from the free trade agreement with supplying the Australian market.

The “Land of Smiles” is certainly producing high quality products, none more so than the Isuzu D-Max utes that are now rolling out of a brand-new factory at the Gateway Industrial Estate, about an 80-minute drive east of Bangkok. Opened in 2012, this is the second Isuzu manufacturing plant for light commercial vehicles in Thailand, increasing its annual manufacturing capability to 400,000 units. The ute market in Thailand dominates everything else, with sales in this segment averaging around 530,000 units per year, of which Isuzu Ute enjoys a 50 percent market share. The total Thai vehicle market is currently averaging 1.43 million units, making this the 13th ranked global market and around 300,000 units larger than the total Australian market.

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factor When it comes to production, the Thai motor industry is manufacturing 2.4 million vehicles each year, ranking as the 10th largest vehicle producing country in the world. It may come as little surprise to find that with production-line wages in some cases averaging $10 per day, the standard economies of Western manufacturing countries simply cannot compete. There’s a huge historical strength supporting the Isuzu brand globally that dates back to the founding of the company in 1916, making this the oldest manufacturer in Japan. In its relationship with Australia, Isuzu Truck Division has held the number-one sales spot in the total Australian commercial vehicle market for 25 consecutive years. As with many Japanese corporations, there’s an interwoven series of relationships, and, in the case of Isuzu Motors International Operations of Thailand (IMIT), the company is 51 percent owned by Isuzu Group, with the remaining 49 percent


THE MU-X FACTOR owned by Mitsubishi Corporation. Distribution in the Thai market is handled by yet another corporation, called Tri Petch Isuzu Sales. Until now, the main product sold by the group has been the D-Max ute, with just on 1,000,000 units being retailed globally in over 100 individual countries. Of these, 10,000 units have been sold in the Australian market. When you add in the previous ute models produced by Isuzu since 1972, the total production statistics reach a staggering 6.5 million vehicles. It’s an amazing progression for a company possessing virtually just one product in its portfolio. But that is about to change, as, in addition to the award-winning range of Isuzu D-MAX utes and pick-ups, the IUA dealership group now has a new SUV in its ranks. Called the MU-X, the seven-seat SUV shares the same strong 3.0-litre, four-cylinder diesel with five-speed manual and automatic transmissions, but teams these with an independent coil sprung front suspension and five-link coilsprung, live-axle rear design. The MU-X was presented to the world media with a prophesy this addition to the range has the potential to significantly shake-up the established competition in this highly contested segment. The reputation of Isuzu Ute in the Australian market (IUA) has always centred on the strength and durability of the product. With the MU-X, buyers can choose between 2WD and 4WD models at a price range that is expected to see launch options starting around the $39,990 level for the entrylevel LS-M, rising to sub $50,000 mark for the top-spec LS-T. Isuzu has not held back from offering a high-end list of inclusions, such as leather trim, climate control air conditioning, touch screen navigation with reverse camera,

and roof-mounted DVD entertainment system for rear seat passengers. Isuzu Ute Australia has experienced unrivalled success since launching the first D-Max ute in 2002, with annual growth averaging 20 percent as it enforces its core values of strength and practicality combined with the highest levels of durability and customer satisfaction. Delivery was on hand in Bangkok for the global launch of the MU-X and was the first Australian specialist magazine to drive the various 2WD and 4WD versions at the world-class Isuzu 4x4 Land off-road test centre and at the Bridgestone Tyres’ private test track. As one might expect, there are different specifications to suit variations in market preferences, with Europe taking its D-Max and MU-X powered by a 2.5-litre, Euro V emissions level four-cylinder diesel that produces 100 kW at 3,600 rpm and with peak torque of 320 Nm rated from 1,800 to 2,800 rpm. The Australian version of the MU-X continues to use the highly respected 3.0-litre, four-cylinder, turbocharged and intercooled diesel that produces 130 kW at 3,600 rpm with peak torque of 380 Nm rated from 1,800 to 2,800 rpm. There’s an obvious common design look between the D-Max and the MU-X, although the only identical components are in fact the bonnet and front doors. The ladder-frame chassis is basically similar, except for the pick-up points of the rear suspension where traditional leaf springs used on the D-Max now switch to being coil springs on the MU-X. There’s a plethora of product competing for attention in the Australian SUV crossover segment, but where the MU-X scores is in its ability to combine excellent axle articulation with the class-leading engine in this category. This is a crossover SUV that will go where others won’t, while providing excellent ride and handling characteristics when on-road.

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FEATURE

The major van makers are now increasing their focus on the Australian market, and the customer is the major beneficiary. Words by Chris Mullett

here’s an interesting shift in emphasis by the major vehicle makers that suggests a realisation on their part that not everything revolves around new cars on the showroom floor. For a dealer to be successful it’s necessary to look closely at all options, and that includes light commercial vehicles just as much as the latest, flashiest, sedan or hatch. Mind you, it’s been a struggle in recent years with some of the major importers, particularly Holden, ignoring the light commercial products that are available for sale in General Motors’ divisions overseas. Through product sharing from different manufacturers such as Opel, as well as Nissan, General Motors dealerships could have an excellent product range of vans and cab/ chassis variants on display at their forecourts. But, alas, that is not to be, leaving the Holden dealerships with an untapped source of revenue. When challenged on the subject, the standard response is that the Holden sales and marketing team failed to make an economic case for import. But when Renault, Peugeot, Fiat, 78

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Ford, Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen all add up their figures and make a profit, it seems that Holden executives are just out of touch and lack the necessary interest and motivation. Ford has also tended to leave the sales of its light commercial van range to its own devices, perhaps hoping that the Transit name alone would be sufficient to push the product forward into the minds of the buyers. Part of the Ford and Holden problem appears to be the revolving door policy of the global manufacturers when it comes to grooming its future executives. American employees on the staircase to higher appointment spend only a short time in the role of brand manager in the Australian market. With a new Transit and a wider range of derivatives about to be launched into the Australian market in the first quarter of 2014, Ford needs to address this situation and tackle its light commercial vehicle marketing with renewed vigour. Gone are the days of waiting in the dealership to take orders. The Transit in all its forms needs to be marketed properly across the entire range in order to produce strong sales performance. The real emphasis now taking place amongst the light commercial manufacturers can be seen by the increased activity currently taking place amongst the ranks of Renault, Fiat and Mercedes-Benz.


SERIOUS BUSINESS As mentioned elsewhere in this issue, Fiat has increased its dealership representation from 9 sales outlets to 52, with more planned in the near future. Renault is also spearheading a major sales offensive by expanding its range of Kangoo, Trafic and Master variants and focusing on value for money pricing and a strong advertising campaign. In recent issues of Delivery we mentioned the latest upgrades in safety and driver comfort applicable to the Sprinter range, and how Mercedes-Benz came to receive the Delivery Magazine Best Van of the Year Award in 2013, matched by the accolade of Best People Mover of the Year being awarded to the Mercedes-Benz Valente. As a measure of the emphasis being placed on the introduction of the new Sprinter range across Australia, Delivery took part in the launch events for the brand that saw media, dealership personnel and major customers all invited to drive the different products in an interesting and educational environment.

Mercedes-Benz made its first light commercial back in 1896. In 1995, the first Sprinter hit the highway in Europe, but it was some three years later before it was subsequently launched into the Australian market.

As we move towards the close of 2013, the job ahead for Mercedes-Benz in Australia is to get the message out to prospective customers that the latest Sprinter is better than ever. Not only has it gained a facelift in external appearance, it now includes additional safety technology. Currently retailed through 51 dealerships, and with the further service support of 8 additional locations, MercedesBenz has plans to increase these figures to 55 selling dealers and 15 additional service outlets within the next six months. The release of the latest Sprinter brought with it the opportunity to drive a wide selection of the different models, starting on the Gold Coast and heading through Mount Tambourine area to meet up at the Mount Cotton Driver Training Centre. The on-road drive section provided a good choice of hilly terrain, and with organised changeover points for drivers

Braking distance and steering control were closely evaluated at the Mount Cotton test centre.

A facelift in 2000 was followed by the introduction of the all-new Sprinter replacement in 2006, which significantly increased safety standards, comfort and convenience. By 2010, the engine technology had shifted to Euro V emissions levels, and Sprinter became market leader in the large van segment within Australia. In 2012, it gained the addition of the 7G-Tronic seven-speed automatic transmission, achieving total sales in this country of 158,749 units, against a backdrop of nearly 2.6 million Sprinters sold globally. Total annual production is 160,00 units, with those for our market made at Dusseldorf and Ludwigsfelde in Germany.

to swap vehicles between short and long wheelbase, plus different engine and transmission options, the advantages of the varying aspects of the model range soon showed through. Specific questions concerning the latest technical inclusions of lane departure assist, blind spot assist, crosswind yaw minimisation and trailer swing control, were handled easily by the product specialists on hand at Mount Cotton.

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FEATURE

SPRINTER

IN FOCUS With over eight million kilometres of testing, the new Sprinter is set to remain dominant in the large van segment – Words by Chris Mullett.

S

tand by for a reshuffle in the large van segment as Mercedes-Benz comes in with new additions to its safety arsenal to set a benchmark for single vehicle and fleet owners alike.

The Sprinter has a new face to bring its appearance more in line with current thinking in the car design studios, but the bit that does all the work, as in the van body itself, remains largely unchanged. The interior also looks virtually identical to its predecessor, but there are trim level upgrades and also improvements to the entertainment, Bluetooth connectivity and mapping systems. 82

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The mechanical changes bring in a choice of four engines, ranging from 70 and 95 kW through to 120 and 140 kW, but these engines remain currently at Euro V emissions levels, negating the need for AdBlue to lift compliance up to Euro VI standards. Torque ratings vary accordingly, from 250 Nm and 305 Nm, through to 360Nm and 440 Nm respectively. When we hit Euro VI in this country you’ll be filling up with AdBlue (also known on the US market as Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF)). This will result in a further tank just for the DEF, which is injected into the exhaust system. It all happens seamlessly, but it will mean checking two tanks during your visit to the bowser, rather than just the one distillate pump.


SPRINTER IN FOCUS

When questioned on why Mercedes-Benz had not jumped straight into Euro VI with the launch of the latest version of the Sprinter, the company suggested the reasoning hinged on the slow rollout of the AdBlue/DEF infrastructure by most of the fuel companies. Until there’s an AdBlue bowser adjoining each distillate outlet, they probably have a valid point.

Power is transferred to the wheels via a torque converter with integrated lockup clutch. The lockup clutch minimises power loss or slip across the torque converter and can engage in all gears, depending on engine speed and load. The fifth gear ratio is a direct drive, with sixth and seventh being overdriven ratios to maximise fuel economy.

The switch to Euro VI is also a trigger point for the chassis/ cab to move from a five-speed fluid automatic to the new seven-speed auto announced for selected models in the van range. Despite some forced questioning of senior executives to find an answer as to why the chassis/cab version had to remain with a five-speed, when driveline lengths and engines are common with the van, it would

If you believe in putting your drivers in the safest light commercial available, you’ll be impressed by the inclusion now of the following systems, which make their world debut in the Sprinter: Crosswind Assist, Collision Prevention Assist and Blind Spot Assist. Other new features are Highbeam Assist and Lane Keeping Assist.

appear that head office in Germany is not bending over backwards to move ahead of the next big technology jump with the introduction of Euro VI. The seven-speed automatic transmission (7G-TRONIC PLUS), as reported in previous issues of Delivery, is an absolute cracker of a gearbox. Way ahead of anything else on the light commercial vehicle market, its introduction has also come with a revision of rear axle ratios to improve fuel economy. As an example, the Sprinter 313CD drops numerically from 4.182:1 to a new ratio of 3.692:2, bringing with it a reduction of 400 rpm when cruising at 100 km/h.

In addition, Mercedes-Benz has improved the Sprinter’s handling by lowering the chassis. This in turn has reduced the van’s drag and fuel consumption and makes it easier to load and unload cargo. BlueEFFICIENCY is the term Mercedes-Benz applies to its quest to reduce parasitic power loss caused by ancillary equipment draining power off the engine and thereby increasing fuel consumption. For Sprinter, this means the BlueEFFICIENCY package brings with it an ECO power steering pump (an hydraulic steering pump with variable volumetric flow rate), plus an electrically controlled fuel pump that delivers only the required quantity of fuel for lower power consumption, together with DELIVERY

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