Thursday, 14 January 2016

LDV Maxus sets van sights on UK and Europe

Plans are in place to import 3,000 LDV Maxus V80 vans, made in China, into the UK where the design originated in 2000, when it was a joint venture between LDV in Washwood Heath, Birmingham and Korea's Daewoo.

In addition to the Maxus V80, LDV is planning in 2017 to launch into the UK a new G10 panel van which, claims executives of the Chinese company, to be at least the equal of the Mercedes-Benz Vanio.

According to last week's Commercial Motor the vehicles will be of high quality following major re- engineering by SAIC which has the intellectual property rights to the design.

The vans will be imported from China by Dublin-based Harris Group which, following extensive evaluation, has been negotiating for two years to distribute the vans in Ireland and in the UK through LDV UK Ltd.

It seems that Harris 'secured a quote for 3,000 Euro 5 vans for the UK which will be imported under National Small Series Type Approval'.

The vans will be retailed through a network of 16 commercial vehicle dealers', according to the magazine.

When the Euro 6 product arrives in 2017, and volumes increase, the network will be expanded. All will be offered with a five- year 125,000 mile warranty.

SAIC or Shanghai Automotive Industrial Corporation, owns MG of Longbridge, Birmingham and LDV and employs 200,000. It is a Fortune 500 company.

SAIC's Maxus facility in Wuxi was built in 2011.The plant reportedly builds 25,000 vans a year with customers including DHL, Fed-Ex and UPS. This is a small number compared with the likes of Daimler and Volkswagen. However, the company is aiming for 25 per cent of China's 150,000 light commercial van market and allegedly has its sights set on being market leader.

According to Commercial Motor the company aims to be building 200,000 units a year by 2020. Of course it is easy to make forecasts; much more difficult is the task of delivering those volumes, as any vehicle sales manager will know.

                                          Sights set overseas

LDV Maxus's sights are set not on just the home market. 'Exports will play a key role in the coming years,' it is said. There are claims that LDVs are sold in 37 countries; in which case the volumes must be penny numbers per territory.

South Africa, Chile, Ireland, South-east Asia, New Zealand and Australia are numbered among the regions. After one year, it is said, the Maxus has become the fourth best-selling van in Australia.

According to Commercial Motor, LDV Maxus's research the UK's van market is 'the largest in the world'.

Recently, the SMMT reported that UK van sales in 2015 reached a new record number – 371,830 units – surpassing the last record set in 2007.

And Opel, which includes Vauxhall, reported 2015 as another great year for Vauxhall Commercial Vehicles. The Luton-based manufacturer – the only van maker now in the UK following an earlier exit by Ford Motor Company from its Southampton Transit van facility – sold more vans to retail customers last year than any other manufacturer. Total Vauxhall van sales were up 28 per cent with over 41,000 sold. The Luton-built Vivaro enjoyed another successful year in 2015 with more than 27,000 units sold of the multi award-winning medium van.

'The expectation by LDV is a 15 per cent share in the next five years,' according to the magazine.

LDV appears to have ambitious plans. In addition to the V80 and the G10 there are more. Products in the pipeline, including a pick- up truck and an SUV.

SAIC sources suggest there is a new platform in production at the moment - an entirely new van will be launched in 2018 powered by a new SAIC 2-litre engine of 400Nm torque able to span 3.2 to 7 tonnes GVW.

These will have front- and rear-wheel drive and 'will be just as good as Sprinter, Ducato and Daily', leaving the V80 to be produced for the home market.

The ambitions seem high, to say the least. And, given current production facilities, the targets seem out of reach. The plant is described as 'labour intensive and has only a handful of robots'.

To be fully economic, a van plant needs to produce in the region of 100,000 units a year. Volkswagen is building a new van plant to build its Crafter, previously a joint-venture with Daimler's Mercedes-Benz. And  LDV may have to re-engine its Maxus as volumes climb using in-house units.

Production is running at the rate of 13.5 vans an hour which equates to one, but by next year some 70 per cent of all jobs will be carried out by robot allowing the company to raise output to 41 vans per hour.

The van has been completely re-engineered with executives claiming 'We have upgraded so much of the vehicle, inside and out, that it is almost a completely new van.

As previously, the Maxus is powered by a VM Motori Euro 5 2.5-litre diesel engine supplied by the Italian company in Centi and developing 136bhp and 330 Nm torque. The engine, which carries third-generation Bosch common rail fuel injection, is driving through a Mitsubishi six-speed manual transmission. When the V80 comes the UK it will be interesting to see which transmission is offered.

SAIC's headquarters in Shanghai houses a museum containing the LDV Convoy as well as the first Maxus to roll of the line at the Drews Lane plant in Washwood Heath, Birmingham, UK, home of the Wolseley Car Company in the 1920s.

Maxus was a joint venture of LDV in the UK (a company set up by Allen Amey and a spin-out from Leyland Daf Vans Ltd.) and South Korean company Daewoo.

Chequered career

Few light commercial vehicles (LCVs) can boast a more chequered career than the Maxus. To develop its European vehicle engineering expertise, Korean automaker Daewoo acquired the Worthing, Sussex facilities of the beleaguered International Automotive Design (IAD) in 1994, naming it the Worthing Technical Centre. (Ironically, in 1979, Octav Botnar founded Datsun UK, also in Worthing – where Dutton cars were also made. Later, Datsun UK became the launch pad for Nissan UK.)

All went well for a time at the WTC with engineers working on two LCVs, following the link-lip with LDV – the Maxus and a smaller panel van. However, in 2000, General Motors purchased Daewoo and this put an end to developments at WTC. On 26 April 2001, Daewoo's WTC was sold to Tom Walkinshaw’s TWR Group based Whitney, Oxfordshire.

Meanwhile, LDV in Washwood Heath experienced a chequered future, momentarily being owned by Sun Capital before being bought by GAZ in Russia which formulated plans to make the Maxus to replace its own aged van design.

According to Commercial Motor, 'LDV negotiated the exclusive rights to build and sell the van in the UK, and the manufacturing base was shifted from Poland (where Daewoo had built a plant) to the UK.'

This was followed by rumours of a new van, but nothing appeared as production concentrated on 'old design Convoy and Pilot vans' before Maxus was launched in 2005. The following year, after Sun Capital's intervention, GAZ purchased LDV with plans to build Maxus in the UK and Russia.

'Then the recession hit, eventually resulting in LDV's demise.' LDV collapsed with debts of £75 million, causing pain for many suppliers.

In October 2009, there were rumours in West Midlands’ newspapers that a mysterious Chinese businesswoman Qu Li had purchased the assets of LDV. Certainly, a short while later the Chinese formerly stepped in in 2009, and production was shifted to Wuxi, 100 miles from Shanghai,' notes the weekly journal.


Illustrations show the Wuxi plant equipped with three aged Schuler presses. These appear not to be the German company's latest press designs, like for example the ServoDirect Technology system for which the company is winning major orders.

Late last year for example, Schuler AG received a major order from FAW Volkswagen Automotive Co., Ltd. The Chinese company ordered press line with ServoDirect Technology and a servo try-out press for its Qingdao facility.

With a total force of 81,000 kilonewtons, the servo press line will be used to produce car body parts, such as hoods or doors. The order value is in the middle double-digit-million-euro range.

It is perhaps hardly surprising that VW-backed FAW Volkswagen should invest in Schuler’s proven ServoDirect Technology for one of its seven factories in China. These press lines with this drive technology offer high performance with productivity around 20 per cent higher than conventional mechanical press lines.

Despite repeated requests, Schuler has not responded for information regarding its presses at LDV Maxus. Schuler has installed press lines at JaguarLandRover in Castle Bromwich and Halewood.

When LDV reaches higher volumes, it will such press lines to stamp high-quality large components, including for example body sides.

'Seeing the original Maxus brings home how much SAIC has done on the new one, and how much better it looks,' observes the magazine.

The G10 panel van is based on a MPV and has been 'well accepted' in Australia, but will be sold in the UK.

SAIC executives express the opinion that they are 'excited' by the prospect of selling the vehicle in the UK but admit that 'the last thing they want to do is enter the UK with a sub- standard product and tarnish the company's image.'

They add that they will compete 'with the mainstream European van manufacturers shoulder-to-shoulder and at the same quality’.

One executive hints that 'LDV Maxus is just the first in a long line of Chinese vehicle manufacturers who will set their sights on the UK and the rest of Europe'.

This could well prove to be a prophecy and warning.

1 comment:

Alan Bunting said...

LDV's future success in Europe, notably in its former indigenous UK market, will depend critically on the quality and dynamism of its appointed dealers. Those 16 dealers - seemingly already earmarked - will, initially at least, have been selected by the importer, viz the Irish Harris Group, whose reputation in the appointment of dealers marketing its Japanese Hino trucks is far from impressive. Hino dealers in the UK tend to be 'one horse' outfits in obscure locations.
During LDV's former, British-owned, existence, most of its van dealerships were incorporated into DAF Trucks outlets. As successful heavy and middleweight truck market leader for the past two decades or more, DAF would have little to gain commercially from re-establishing an LDV distributing partnership. Apart from anything else, on a practical level, its bustling dealer sites have no available space to accommodate van sales and servicing.
In any case DAF bosses in Eindhoven and their American masters in Bellevue, Washington State, would be unwilling to establish any kind of tie-up with LDV that involved the Harris Group. They would insist on a direct relationship with the Chinese manufacturer.
Few in the commercial vehicle industry would be surprised if these newly-hatched grand plans for a market-busting LDV van re-introduction, together with his aspirations to sell Sinotruk heavies in Europe turn out to be another Pino Harris pipedream.