Small SUVs may be capturing the modern automotive zeitgeist better than other vehicles, but there is one part of the market growing even faster in percentage terms — light-sized vans.
The Vans/CC < 2.5t segment, which includes the Volkswagen Caddy, Renault Kangoo, Suzuki APV, Citroen Berlingo and Fiat Doblo, remains small in numerical terms — just 2267 registrations YTD, up from 1740 at this point last year.
Nevertheless, no other new vehicle segment is up more in percentage terms — 30.3 per cent to be precise. The aforementioned small SUV segment has grown 26.6 per cent, light buses are up 17.4 per cent, medium SUVs are up 13.2 per cent and light cars have grown 10.8 per cent.
At the half way point of the year, the class-leader by a country mile is the Volkswagen Caddy van, with 1177 registrations, up 21.5 per cent and enough to secure 51.9 per cent market share (actually down from 55.7 per cent share this time last year).
Growing faster is its 2IC, the Renault Kangoo, with 567 registrations this year representing growth of 72.9 per cent, giving it a neat market share of 25.0 per cent (up from 18.9 per cent at this time in 2014).
Third on the podium is the humble Suzuki APV, with 290 registrations (up 3.2 per cent) and 12.8 per cent market share (down from 16.1 per cent). Fourth is the Citroen Berlingo with 172 units, up 20.3 per cent and with a market share of 7.6 per cent.
The new-to-segment Fiat Doblo has notched up 52 units YTD, all incremental. The axed Peugeot Partner has tallied 9 units, down from 19 at this time last year.
Why might this segment be up so much? One obvious answer might be the government’s temporary increase to the instant asset write-off mark in May’s budget, allowing small businesses to claim back purchases of up to $20,000.
Sure enough, the segment grew by a disproportionate 34.3 per cent in May and an even greater 39.2 per cent in June. But then, it also grew by 49.8 per cent in January, 30.8 per cent in February and 39.2 per cent in April. The aberration was March, where the segment contracted 6.5 per cent.
In other words, it’s not like the segment has only spiked since treasurer Hockey announced the tax break.
Also a likely factor are the bargain deals that can be had. Volkswagen has been, and is still doing, deals on the Caddy Runner at $22,990 drive-away with Bluetooth and Cruise control. Ditto Renault, which has been campaigning the Kangoo at $19,990 drive-away in top-selling petrol L1 guise (67.0 per cent of Kangoo sales last year were this variant).
Intriguingly, it’s not that potential van owners are leaving larger commercials behind and-or downsizing, because registrations in the medium van market led by the Toyota HiAce and Hyundai iLoad (Vans/CC 2.5-3.5t) are up 9.2 per cent YTD — and not entirely post-budget either.
We have seen a drop in 4x2 ute sales of 6.1 per cent YTD, but the volume increase in 4x4 utes more than balances this out, so it’s not entirely clear if any prospectives from this market have opted for a van instead — although, there’s price parity between a light van and a base two-door cab-chassis.
We asked Renault Australia why it thinks sales of the Kangoo are up so much in 2015, as a litmus test.
"There are a number of reasons that we believe we’ve seen a growth in Kangoo sales over the past 12 months," said Renault Australia corporate communications manager Emily Fadeyev.
She cited a expanded dealer network (growing from 40 up to 49 dealers over the past 12 months), three of which have adopted the Renault PRO+ model that offers extended service hours and loan vehicles to better suit light commercial owners and fleets.
Fleet sales to the likes of Australia Post are up, she said, and this helps boost awareness. There's also more advertising spend on LCVs, sharp retail deals and Hockey's tax breaks.
Are you a prospective light van buyer? Tell us your story in the comments below.
Also, read our recent light van comparison test between the Volkswagen Caddy, Renault Kangoo, Suzuki APV and Fiat Doblo here.