Vanguard of recovery: the models that keep our economy going
Vans are the wheels that drive our economy in so many ways every day. Here Padraic Deane runs the rule over the models on sale - and those coming down the line
As well as running through many of the van and other LCV models on sale here for you I also have details of some new models coming.
But let's start with a look at the vans you are most likely to consider for yourself, your company or fleet.
I've taken a two-year perspective because that shows a truer picture of what is, and has been, going on out there in the real world of business and enterprise.
Ford is the dominant manufacturer in the Irish new van market with 27.26pc market share. It also has the top two selling model lines - the Transit and Transit Connect ranges - covering the big two segments.
In addition to the four-way Transit family (including Transit Minibus and chassis cab), Transit Custom, Transit Connect, and Transit Courier, there is also an impressive lineup of car-derived models including the Kuga Van, Focus Van, Fiesta Van, and Ranger pickups.
The Ford Transit is consistently Ireland's best selling van. It has just celebrated its 50th birthday. Since it was first launched in 1965, the Transit has sold more than 7m worldwide, and some 125,000 Transits have been sold here.
The new Ranger 4x4 pickup will arrive this spring. It gets a fresh look inside and out, new engines, and promises more efficiency.
Last year, Volkswagen did well to increase its sales in 2015 by nearly 29pc despite its new Caddy and Transporter vans not arriving until last September, missing out on all the prime selling periods of the year.
However, expect those two big selling model lineups to provide a boost to Volkswagen Commercials this year.
In addition to the Transporter, which won the International Van of the Year 2016 award, and its biggest selling Caddy range, Volkswagen also has the bigger Crafter range in its main line-up.
This Crafter is in its final year andaccording to January's figures it was the only model in the top 20 to drop in sales (31pc) compared with January 2015.
In the car-derived sectors, the newly added Touareg Commercial accounted for an impressive 133 registrations last month while the Golf van is also enjoying a revival.
Volkswagen also has a special edition "Amarok Ultimate" pickup on offer. And a new facelifted Amarok will arrive late this year (2016).
The marque claims to be the only commercial brand with vehicle PCP in Ireland with a typical 3.9pc APR across the entire range Mercedes Benz has been manufacturing the aforementioned Crafter on behalf of Volkswagen Commercials, alongside their own Sprinter range. However, that arrangement will come to an end later this year. VW is developing an all-new range and production facility in Poland.
Expect the new range to occupy the 3.5 tonne weight category and power will come from a 2 litre engine used across the Volkswagen CV range.
However, it has been announced in the UK that the model will be badged as MAN (trucks), which is part of the Volkswagen Group, and will be sold through its truck dealerships. No announcement has been made here in Ireland.
Renault is Number One for van sales in Europe. In fact it has just been confirmed that it topped the European LCV sector for an 18th consecutive year. In a European market up 11.4pc Renault's
LCV sales rose to 16.9pc, equivalent to the sale of 29,000 additional vehicles. Its market share increased to reach 15pc.
Here in Ireland, Renault has cemented its position in third place in the van/LCV market.
Take last month, traditionally the busiest of the year. Renault's Trafic was the fourth best-selling model range, with the Master van taking sixth position.
Ireland's first all electric van, the Kangoo ZE is looking like it will be a good seller this year. Last month 84 were sold and Renault Ireland sees this growing steadily. The real-life range per charge is being reported to be between 90km and 105km.
Charging your Kangoo Z.E. takes between six and nine hours depending on the power available from the wall-mounted home charging box. As with the Kangoo van (diesel engined), the Z.E. comes as a regular and Maxi.
In January last year, Renault Ireland said it hadn't enough new Trafic vans to satisfy demand. Last month it grew Trafic van sales by 114pc compared to the same month last year. It also sold 21 new Trafic Pace Minibuses, which weren't available a year ago.
Renault will be adding a 4x4 pickup based on the 'Alaskan' concept which has a lot in common with the Nissan Navara including the drivetrain.
As with their car range, new Renault vans come with a five-year warranty or 200,000km as standard.
SINCE the passing of the iconic HiAce and LiteAce, Toyota has relied heavily on its legendary Land Cruiser Commercial and to a much lesser extent, its HiLux pickup to deliver the sales numbers.
The ProAce is a re-marketing of the Peugeot Expert and Citroen Dispatch van in cooperation with PSA. It has filled a void but not set the market alight. However, a totally new model is being jointly developed by PSA Peugeot Citroen and Toyota and will debut at the Geneva Motor show next week. It will arrive in Ireland in time for the start of 162 sales. In addition to the Peugeot and Citroen versions, this new generation will have a much greater variety of body types including MPV.
Toyota also offers the Auris car-derived van and it would be a close second to the VW Golf van for sales in this segment.
It has occupied fifth place over the last two years. Its Belingo is always popular and accounted for 1,147 of their 1,363 van sales last year.
The new Berlingo won the Continental Irish Small/ Compact Van of the Year 2016. It arrived here last summer and it is the first Citroen LCV range to be powered by Euro 6 compliant BlueHDi diesel engines.
The new Relay van has also grown in popularity last year, with sales up over 150pc on the year before; 100 Dispatch vans were also sold in 2015.
We expect to see the new Dispatch van launched at the Geneva Motor Show and it should be on sale in the summer. The new vehicle should be offered in more body types, and an MPV version.
Peugeot has been in sixth place over the last two years. Like Citroen with the Berlingo, their Partner van is popular and accounted for 929 of their 1,169 sales last year. It will have a special edition new Partner Professional range here this spring.
Their new Expert van should also debut at the Geneva Motor Show and go on sale this summer. Expect the new generation Expert to have more body types plus an MPV version.
The new Boxer van showed a big jump in sales last year over 2014, with the current Expert also recording an increase in sales percentage numbers ahead of the overall market.
Opel moved from ninth in 2014 up to seventh last year. Their biggest seller is the new Vivaro with 625 of its overall 1,130 sales last year. Opel sold 266 Combo vans and its bigger Movano accounted for 139 sales.
The Movano range has now been extended to include factory-built conversions that had previously been built by third parties. These include 'Tipper Van', 'Drop Side' and 'Box Body' versions.
Sales of Nissan's NV400 and NV200 vans grew in similar percentages to the market last year, accounting for 740 units sold.
The Primastar, the Navera 4x4 pickup, and Qashqai Commercial account for their remaining sales.
The new award-winning Navara model has a new more efficient 2.3 diesel engine.
Nissan says that the all electric eNV200 provides a practical and sustainable city delivery vehicle.
It will also expand its LCV range with the introduction of a new NV300. It's a mid-sized van that will sit between the NV200 and NV400. It will succeed the Primastar and go on sale later this year.
The Sprinter is a popular range with a premium brand an additional bonus for many owner-drivers and fleets.
The Sprinter was the eleventh best selling van range last year with 655 sold.
The new Vito, the 2016 Continental Irish Van of the Year, added another 266 sales and expect that to grow in the year ahead. It is a really good van.
The Mercedes-Benz 519/36 chassis cab is also popular with the likes of ambulance body builders.
The manufacturer is also well advanced with plans to enter the pickup market.
The Discovery Commercial accounted for 920 out of Land Rover's total sales of 991 LCVs last year.
That made it the ninth best-selling LCV model overall last year. The rest of Land Rover sales in this sector would largely be Defender Commercials.
Other movers and shakers
FIAT has moved in to the Top 10 brands last month with their Doblo Cargo selling well.
Other notable performers last month were the newly arrived Volkswagen Transporter and new Touareg Commercial, which will compete with the Discovery and Land Cruiser for sales.
The new European designed but Chinese manufactured LDV V80 also made an impression last month with 70 new registrations.
Another to watch out for is the all-new Mitsubishi L200 which was 2016 Continental Irish Pick-Up of the Year and recorded a 500pc increase in sales this January over the corresponding month last year.