Thanks to the new Combo and Vivaro, Vauxhall's van sales were up 31% last year, to give the manufacturer its second record year on the trot. This year, Vauxhall predicts sales will fall from 266,000 to 264,000 – due mainly to doubts over the war in Iraq – although so far the market is booming.
In 2003, the firm's van fleet sales have risen 109%, while Combo sales are up 251% and Vivaro sales up 122% over last year.
In 2002, sales of the Movano panel van fell by 14.4% to just under 4,000 units, but national vans sales manager Ian Hucker said he believed this situation would dramatically alter after a major change in Vauxhall's dealer network.
Previously, 180 dealers across the UK had sold the entire range of vans. Under the new system a total of 115 dealers have been designated as specialist centres while a further 99 will sell light vans only. That way, Vauxhall claims, customers will be assured of expert help. Hucker said: 'We are number two in the marketplace but are not always thought of as such. With the new vans we have on show, we will continue to pull ahead of the others.
Taking centre stage on the show stand was the Vivaro high-roof model, available in both long and short wheelbase formats. Load length is 2.8m for the LWB and height is 1.92m. Payload is 1,100kg and volume is 8.4 cubic metres. The new model has full-height rear doors and care has been taken not to spoil the van's graceful lines with its extra roof panels. There will be a £500 premium over standard height variants when it goes on sale in May and Vauxhall expects the bigger model to account for 15% of total Vivaro sales.
Meanwhile, the Vivaro Sportiv takes the van into an even more stylish arena, with alloy wheels, front fog lights, silver metallic paint, air conditioning, electric windows and CD player. This model is based on the SWB platform and features the higher-powered 1.9-litre DTi six-speed powerplant offering 100bhp. Vauxhall says this model will be priced at around £1,000 more than the ordinary version, although it contains £2,000 worth of extras.
In the summer, a new 2.5-litre common rail diesel engine joins the Vivaro line-up. The new powerplant offers 130bhp and a massive 228bhp of torque, giving Vivaro a 30% power boost. Finally, Combo gets a new addition to the family, with a folding rear seat option. Twin sliding side doors allow three passengers access to the rear and all seats feature head restraints and three-point lap and diagonal belts. The seats can be folded down flat into the load area, giving the van a dual-purpose role, and there is an optional removable bulkhead.