How cool would Ford's Australian line-up be if it sold the Mustang Mach-E, Maverick, and Bronco?
Ford Australia has just outlined its electrification roadmap, which includes...
Browse over 9,000 car reviews
On the eve of the launch of the new Hyundai Staria Load commercial van - a vehicle that the Korean brand claims is the safest van in the segment - another big brand van company has decided to de-spec some of its models to remove safety gear in order to lower prices.
It isn’t just AEB that the brand is stripping out of the Partner small van and the Expert mid-size van - you now also miss out on the other safety technologies associated with that part of the system, including forward collision warning, lane keeping assist (in the Partner only) and speed sign recognition. While before you got that tech standard in all versions of each of those vans, now the entry-grade City spec models will lose the tech, with customers ordered to spend more to get technology that could save their lives, or the lives of others.
To save a few grand, buyers of these base spec Expert models also forgo inclusions such as adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring and rear parking sensors. Weirdly, the Boxer large van continues in Pro spec only, meaning it retains AEB and other safety gear.
The company might be right in saying these “working class vans have broadened their appeal” by being cheaper to purchase, but ultimately, the question needs to be asked: at what cost?
Here’s the spiel from the Peugeot press release:
“Aimed at meeting a wide variety of business needs, the changes bring a specification realignment to Peugeot's entire light commercial family, an LCV triple threat neatly covering the small, medium and large sectors and moving from a 'one size fits all' strategy to a more comprehensive model range maximising versatility and meeting the varying needs of both owner-operators and owner-drivers, including small-to-medium businesses and 'tool of trade' buyers.”
My dad is a tradie, and while he’d never buy a van, if this had been done to a ute he was considering buying, I’d tell him that he’d be throwing his money away. Business vehicles are investments, they have a job to do and, once they’ve done it, you’d hope to get some of your money back in resale. Adding a de-specced model to any product ranks is likely to degrade the value of those variants, if not arguably the range as a whole.
Further, for the most part, there are a lot of business buyers today who don't care as much about vehicle prices as they once did. Tax incentives mean spending money on depreciating assets like vehicles isn’t as big a concern for sole traders or small businesses as it once was, and other brands are - rightly, in this writer’s opinion - taking the approach that advanced safety tech is a non-negotiable.
Some companies and fleet customers mandate the requirement for five-star safety, too. Now, there is a counter argument here that the Peugeot Partner was never going to be on those lists anyway, as it only managed a four-star ANCAP score based on 2018 testing, and the Peugeot Expert and larger Boxer van don’t have ANCAP ratings to speak of.
But one would have thought that the headline-making zero-star ANCAP rating for the Mitsubishi Express - a vehicle with no advanced active safety technology - would have been enough to encourage the segment’s product planners to realise that safety is a non-negotiable cost of entry to any market segment these days. Yes, tradies matter.
At the press conference detailing the new Hyundai Staria Load, the brand’s product planners proudly proclaimed the new van as offering “progress for humanity”, by triangulating the needs of “fit for purpose”, “safety”, and “cost”. The crossover of those considerations, according to Hyundai, means the Staria Load has “segment leading active safety and technology”, with ADAS (Advanced Driver Assist Systems) matching or bettering the current segment benchmark, the Toyota HiAce.
The existing Hyundai iLoad van - which was on sale for 14 years - didn’t have any ADAS features to speak of, and its sales had dropped over recent years as a result of that, with a more market-savvy customer realising that there are competitors like the Toyota HiAce, Ford Transit Custom and - only in certain specifications, now - the Peugeot Expert offered safety and other technologies that were more up-to-date with modern requirements.
Simon Bartnik, product planner for the new van for Hyundai, said the approach from the brand in this generation is to offer “the safest van on the market”.
“For these buyers a vehicle must be fit for purpose - it has to be able to do the job needed. It must meet safety requirements as more companies and fleets require five-star ANCAP ratings, and it must meet cost requirements including up front, running costs and long term value of the vehicle,” he said.
“One of the key ways the market has shifted to address all three of these concerns is by integrating advanced driver assist technologies.
“Most importantly, these features keep everyone safer on the road, but also have significant benefits in terms of costs to operators. They help secure a business’s investment, by lowering the risk of incident, from a bingle to serious collision.
“This helps to safeguard the value of an investment in the short term, by minimizing repair costs, and in the long term by preserving their value. This overall makes the vehicle more fit for purpose as a complete offering,” said Mr Bartnik.
With other vans on the market still lacking any form of ADAS tech - the aforementioned Express, the current Renault Trafic that it’s based upon (though an updated model with ADAS tech is on the radar for 2022), and the Chinese-made budget-focused LDV G10 - it’s clear that Peugeot’s decision is an attempt to get a slice of the cheap van pie. But again, at what cost?