Wednesday, 9 December 2015

SAIC poised to pounce on UK van market?

Van dealerships in the UK may be wondering if the Maxus van could make a return to the country if SAIC is able to undercut established marques.
Although there are no significant, tangible ripples to that effect on the surface, it is just possible the China-based company is taking a hard look at the UK market as a potential stepping stone into Europe, as the GAZ version of Maxus, the GAZelle NEXT, gathers momentum.

With the Maxus van having some pedigree with the UK market through its former links with the initial creator, LDV Ltd of Washbrook, Birmingham, there is good reason to think the van could make a return, with sights set on taking some of the market from Iveco, Mercedes-Benz, and Volkswagen in particular.

SAIC claims to be the largest manufacture of vehicles it China. It also acquired the rights to MG and has a manufacturing site in Longbridge, Birmingham in addition to facilities in Lingang and Nanjing, China.

There is also the SAIC Motor UK Technical Centre which claims to have “wide-ranging work designing, developing and engineering advanced new vehicle and powertrain products for SAIC Motor, one of the world's largest automotive manufacturers and owner of the world-famous MG marque.”

Putting these facets together, and the company's increased activity with its version of the former LDV Maxus panel van, it is not beyond the wit of man to consider the possibility that SAIC officials may have decided the UK could be a useful launch pad for the van.

Besides staff at MG there is still a number of key people in the UK who might have knowledge of good potential dealer sites that might be interested in selling the China-made vehicle.

Added to which, there must be a number of important, former LDV customers who might favour returning to the marque, given sufficient inducement.

And, with Ford having renounced the UK, in terms of both van and passenger car manufacture (leaving Vauxhall as the only UK van maker), there is even the possibility that someone in China might think it worthwhile to assemble the SAIC Maxus once sales volume have built up to significant levels. The UK nevertheless remains a viable production location for the likes of Honda, JaguarLandRover, Nissan and Toyota.

With key names like Iveco, Mercedes-Benz, Renault, Vauxhall and Volkswagen being the main competitors it is possible that SAIC officials in China and the UK may just consider there is sufficient slack in the market-place for just one more marque, if forecourt prices can be made sufficiently attractive to temp newcomers to buy the Maxus van.

Many van users are more concerned about price than where a van originates, and these will be the first candidates for any new potential salesmen seeking to find inroads into the UK market.

In the first eleven months of 2015, vehicles under 3.5 tonnes (in the main these are vans) accounted for unit sales of 341,400, of which the top four accounted for 202,875 vehicles. The top four were: Ford, 92,311; Volkswagen, 40,610; Vauxhall, 37,879; and Peugeot, 32,075.

Vehicles between 3.5 and 6 tonnes accounted for 7,391 units in the first 11 months of 2015, including November, of which the top four contributed 90 per cent. The top four were: Ford, 2,594; Fiat, 1,780; Mercedes-Benz, 1,678; and Peugeot, 622.

SAIC of course will access to such figures and can make up its own mind as to the share it could reasonably take. First in line to attack will be Ford, Volkswagen, Vauxhall and Peugeot.

SAIC officials may well consider an 0.3 per cent slice of the UK cake would be a good start. That is, around 900 vehicles, a figure which would more or less match Renault's 2015 sales total so far of 872. This would take some beating, but in the first instance the figure might look like a reasonable target, i.e. 80 per month.

In terms of production, SAIC might be happy with a figure of 12,000 a year, or 1,000 a month would provide the basis for growth and expansion into a small number of European markets.

With a number of vehicle testing sites available, including the Millbrook Proving Ground in Bedfordshire with its inside knowledge of the Vauxhall Vivaro, and VM Motori quite close by in Cento, Italy, SAIC might be able to make a good case for local assembly in its facility in Birmingham - not a million miles from Washbrook

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