by Brian Byrne
A greater local interest in the range of camper vans available from Volkswagen has been forecast by the head of Volkswagen Commercials Ireland.
The division’s director Alan Bateson has offered that opinion, on the basis the Irish people will not be going on overseas holidays any time soon.
He noted that Volkswagen’s California camper vans are based on the Transporter and Crafter vans, and provide what he calls ‘the best solution’ for many families considering a ‘staycation’ once domestic travel distance restrictions are lifted. Prices start at €59,325 for the California based on the Transporter 6.1.
Mr Bateson was outlining in a video-conference meeting with Ireland’s motoring journalists a view on the state of the light commercial vehicle market in the near and further future, in the light of a collapse of registrations during the coronavirus restrictions.
The anticipated market for LCVs for 2020 is expected to decline by more than a fifth from the original expectation, and he said the total sales for the year will now be in the order of 16,777 units rather than the 21,490 originally budgeted.
Mr Bateson estimated that the immediate impact of the lockdown on sales cut some 4,7217 units from the original expected figure.
He also suggested that next year’s sales in the sector will be around 18,500 units, still significantly lower than the c21,000-23,000 annual sales figure between 2016 and 2019.
He said the new projection for 2020 would result in a €28m hit to Government finances in lost VAT and VRT. On top of that, the state lost out on €24m in fuel taxation over the course of a 90-day lockdown period, with vehicles not on the road.
Retailers will struggle to break even this year, Mr Bateson forecast, adding a further impact to the overall business economy.
VWCI dealers are offering a three month deferral of repayments on new vehicle sales, with purchase contributions of up to €3,500 and a 2.9pc HP finance offer which he said is the lowest in the sector. Restart customer offers are available on Caddy, Transporter, Crafter and Amarok, with PCP offers on all four at 4.9pc interest.
Mr Bateson noted that there is still a resistance in the Irish LCV market to leasing, but the company will be emphasising the benefits of that more strongly, especially in a post-Covid market.
The crisis had accelerated the company’s moves towards more digital marketing, with online sales consultations, email correspondence, video meetings and secure online signature systems in place.
The used vehicle market remains an important area for dealers, and Mr Bateson detailed the company’s warranty, reconditioning, and finance solutions for the segment. A professional vehicle sanitisation will be carried out on all used vehicles in the dealerships, and they will be sealed subsequently so customers can be sure they are safe from any infection.
The after-sales business in dealerships had plummeted by 80pc after the shutdown. But since the reopening on 18 May, it has recovered almost half of that. Again, the emphasis on after-sales is on hygiene and safety of staff and customers, extended opening hours, a collection and delivery option, and inspection of CVRTs.
A new Caddy 5 small van due to arrive before the end of the year is now delayed into early 2021. Mr Bateson noted that production of the current Amarok pickup ceased during the during the closure, and the 25 remaining units here are expected to be sold by the end of July. A new Amarok, produced in association with Ford, is due in 2023.
An electric Transporter, in association with specialist company ABT, will offer a range of 130km, with a 2800kg GVW and a starting price of €52,600 after application of grants. It is due in June. Other electric LCVs will include a Caddy in the second quarter of 2021, a 7-seat PHEV shuttle in autumn next year, with the E-Crafter shortly after. ID Buzz cargo and passenger electric vehicles will arrive in 2022.
Mr Bateson said the Irish retailer network is fully prepared for electric vehicles, with the related service and charging technologies and training in place.