August 23, 2019

Toyota marks LCV commitment with second van – and new brand

Toyota is to launch a dedicated LCV brand – Toyota Professional – as part of a plan to increase its presence in the light commercial vehicle market.

The move comes as the company prepares to launch its second van model, Proace City, early in 2020. Unveiled at the Commercial Vehicle Show in April, Proace City continues Toyota’s cooperation with PSA, being based on the latest Citroën Berlingo, Peugeot Partner and the new Vauxhall Combo.

Until now, with the Hilux pick-up and the larger Proace model, Toyota has only been able to compete in 37% of the European LCV market. With the compact Proace City, which is in the biggest van sector in Europe, the firm will be able to take on up to 75% of the market, with only a larger van missing from its line-up. Toyota is hoping that the launch of Proace City will take its European van sales to more than 100,000 a year, making it a major player.

To meet this potential growth, the company will appoint Toyota Professional dealers, typically within its existing Business Centre network. Those dealers will be expected to sell more than 80 new LCVs per year, or more than 100 in the UK, where the network has already gone much of the way towards this type of specialist van dealer.

In addition, Toyota Professional dealers will have to meet a new set of standards, with at least one dedicated sales person, a full display of Toyota LCVs including conversions, Toyota Professional branding and Toyota Plus used vehicles. The centres will also need to provide express servicing or flexible service hours, courtesy vans and LCV dedicated working areas and vehicle lifts.

Toyota will offer a full line of Proace City vans, including short L1 and longer L2 models in panel van and people carrying versions. The L2 model will also be offered as a double cab crew van. As with the PSA models, Toyota starts at the top of the sector, with highly competitive or class-leading payloads, load volumes and load lengths on offer. Three-seat cabs will be available, along with load-through bulkheads, what Toyota is calling Smart Cargo, that extend load lengths.

The vans will be offered with three versions of the PSA 1.5-litre diesel engine, delivering 75hp, 100hp or 130hp, or a choice of two 1.2-litre petrol engines with 110hp or 130hp. There are five and six speed manual gearboxes on offer, plus the most powerful petrol and diesel engines can be had with an eight-speed automatic transmission.

PSA’s Grip Control system will be offered by Toyota for those that require additional traction, while some countries will also offer a full 4×4 conversion, carried out by French company Dangel.

There will also, eventually, be an electric version of the van. Toyota will launch Proace Electric in 2020, with Proace City Electric expected a year after that. As with the diesel versions of the vans, Toyota will use PSA drivelines, so that means full electric, rather than the hybrid technology that its cars have become known for. Proace Electric sales are expected to start in the Netherlands and in Norway, where there is the highest demand for electric LCVs, followed by France and Spain and eventually a group of countries including the UK, Germany and Sweden.

Given the timescale, there are no details on power or range yet, but Toyota claims that there will be no effect on load volume with the move to battery technology. Potential payload will however fall by around 200kg on the Proace Electric, to 1.0 and 1.2-tonnes, depending on model.

With more than 50 years of Hilux experience, Toyota has of course been building commercial vehicles for a long time. Indeed, many European dealers and customers have fond memories of the previous Hiace van too. With the addition of small as well as medium vans, sitting beside the faithful Hilux, plus two electric vans on the way, Toyota is once again determined to carve itself more than a niche presence in the LCV market. Establishing a dedicated van brand is certainly a good place to start.