Years fly: we're Transported to old, new and different eras
First drive: Volkswagen Transper & Caddy
Published 23/09/2015 | 02:30
The years fly by. One Ploughing Championship follows another. One Volkswagen Transporter van succeeds its forerunner. And the Caddy follows suit.
I asked the country's Ploughing queen Anna May McHugh how long she'd been involved in what is now a massive trade fair (this is its 84th year).
Since Nenagh in 1956, she told me, nearly 60 years ago.
Anna May recounted how difficult it had been for the ploughmen then because there had been black frost overnight.
They had a total of 25 exhibitors. Today it would take seven days to visit each of the 1,500 stands even if you only gave them two minutes apiece.
But even though it is nearly 60 years ago, there were Transporter vans being made back then - since 1950. They reckon an average of 500 a day has been made since.
I don't know about the old ones but the 4Motion 180bhp T6 Highline version I drove down to the Ploughing site last Friday wouldn't have been discommoded too much by the frost: great traction and grip. Nor I suspect would the Caddy I drove back.
As busy-bee loaders, trailers and vans flitted around the vast site for this week's events, we talked about and listened to the evidence of change - not just since the Fifties but over the past couple of years.
And we looked ahead with some optimism.
Volkswagen's managing director Lars Himmer wasn't getting carried away, though.
We have to be cautious. The total car and commercial market is still in rebound. If you take 150,000 new-car sales as the norm then this year's 125,000 is still well short. But levels will hit in or about the 150,000 next year, he forecast
Against that backdrop we drove and examined and heard about the latest generation of commercials: Transporter (from €19,997 ex-VAT) and Caddy (from €13,606).
And the 'new' California is making its debut at the Ploughing as well.
Interesting to see the link between the economy and van buying - and it's not all a great big surge.
VW Commercials chief Alan Bateson pointed out how consumer spend is marginal and not growing that quickly. Lots of small businesses are still struggling. It is difficult for them to expand even where PCPs can cut the cost.
Nationally a lot of inward investment has been in financials, computers, IT but small businesses - buyers of small vans - need support too because that is where employment lies as well. More than half (54pc) of vehicles are six years or older and it's a big challenge for owners to change to new.
By the same token those who are buying want a bit of comfort for themselves and employees so Trendline and Highline trims are now being added. The Caddy has SWB and Maxi versions, as well as DSG and 4Motion.
And the Transporter has two wheelbases and three roof heights, DSG and 4Motion too (quite a high proportion of buyers take the all-wheel-drive).
They say the Life vehicles (passenger cars really such as Caddy Life, Shuttle and Caravelle) all have price reductions and they expect a substantial pickup in the numbers buying them.
The Caddy Life starts at €29,650 and road tax is €270. You could see it suiting someone looking for seven seats while the Transporter T6 Shuttle costs from €41,450 with €390 road tax.
But it is very much about getting people into vans and there are both HP and PCP deals (3.9pc). PCPs start a €179 a month for a Caddy and €269 for a Transporter.
I don't fully understand the intricacies but they say when all is said and done the cost of a Caddy can be as low as €48-a-week net.
I'm sure that point will be made when every dealer starts a special 24-hour test drive from October 12 to 18.
Vans are multi-taskers, we know that. And one is going to be used as a mobile barber as Volkswagen puts its weight behind Movember.
A worthy undertaking. Movember? So soon. The years fly alright. Here's to Anna May's 60th Ploughing in 2016.