Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles is doubling down on its efforts to increase its market penetration  via a range of specialist modifications and additions  to its working vehicles across its Amarok, Caddy and Crafter models.

The company first unveiled its ‘Conversion’  concept in Sydney just prior to  Covid hitting, and the spectre of the pandemic has caused the concept to be slowed in its rollout. However VW Australia is a gain pushing ahead and used its new technical training centre at Essendon Fields in Melbourne  as the stage to launch the latest Conversion models and options.

The company launched seven Conversion variants  all of which the company says  are part of its ‘next-generation of turn-key solutions to specialist requirements across a variety of bodystyles, with a range that is engineered-to-go and fully factory backed’.

The seven “conversion” variants included some  vehicles that had already been launched and  which are already enjoying success in market, including the Walkinshaw Amarok as well as the Crafter Kampervan.

The three other Conversions we were shown at the launch include a wheelchair access Caddy Maxi Life, as well as  a Crafter aimed at the an emergency-services sector with particular focus on winning over ambulance services around the country, which currently largely choose rival Mercedes-Benz’s Sprinter vans for the role.

VW also showed two other commercial conversions including a Crafter equipped with a tipper body  as well as a cold goods body variant using an advanced eutectic cooling system, which is charged up electrically overnight and can stay at a low enough temperature for cold goods delivery for up to 13 hours, without drawing power from the Crafter’s engine or electric system. That should make the body perfect for a lot of operators but particularly when VW brings an electric Crafter to market.

 Both the tipper body and  the Cold Goods body are in testing and evaluation stage at the moment and unlike the other models revealed are not yet available for Australian customers, however VW Australia is hoping to have them available from late 2023 or early 2024.

The Conversions are the fruit of collaborations with a range of Australian  and European suppliers who have passed all of Volkswagen’s compliance conditions, enabling all of the vehicles being offered to be sold as an authorised option from VW dealers with full warranty and backing of rthe german auto giant.

Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles director Ryan Davies said the local division is committed to selecting the best blend of overseas and Australian suppliers to create unique solutions in the market.

“We know from the success of the Australian-engineered Walkinshaw Amarok and Crafter Kampervan that there are great opportunities for Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles to provide even more tailored solutions to a variety of recreational and specialist needs,” Davies said.

“From ambulance fleets to wheelchair access vehicles, from refrigerated transport to tough tipper bodies, the Caddy and Crafter in particular provide the perfect basis to provide versatile and integrated solutions – factory backed with warranty, turn-key solutions that are ready to go,” he said.

“These seven vehicles show the clear intent of Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles to expand beyond the series production vehicles available in showrooms,”  he added.

The Caddy Wheelchair Accessible Conversion,  will be available in the next few months and is the result of a collaboration with German conversion specialist AMF Bruns, a third generation family business  headquartered in Lower Saxony. The company is one of VW’s  Premium Conversion partners  and operates several international branches as well  employing around 400 personnel.

AMF-Bruns is a third-generation family business. With its headquarters in Apen (Lower Saxony, Germany), several international branches and production facilities as well as approx. 400 employees, AMF-Bruns is the European market leader and vehicle technology specialist for people with reduced mobility.

AMF Bruns GmbH in Germany is one of VWAG’s “Premium” Conversion Partners.

The Caddy Wheelchair Accessible Conversion is as based on the Caddy Maxi and is now homologated for the Australian market with a target release date of late 2023.

In what is a particularly clever and fuss free conversion, the Caddy enables a wheel-chair passenger to be wheeled in to the rear of the vehicle via a fold down ramp and to be appropriately secured, while still delivering seating for five other passengers with the potential for a sixth or seventh seat when no wheel chair is loaded. The conversion will add around $25,000 to the retail price of the Caddy Maxi it is based on.

VW say it has been fully tested at up to 20g  crash tests as well as having passed full torsion testing and complies with stringent European standards.

VW’s pitch at the ambulance market via its Crafter larger van in this instance really pivots around a new poly-etheleyne frontal protection system or FPS, something that used to be referred to as a bull or roo bar .

VW says the the Crafter FPS was developed as a direct request from Local Emergency Services to use in their first response fleets, in other words not just ambulances but also for police, fire, rescue and traffic management duties.

The Crafter FPS was developed for VW Australia by leading  off road equipment supplier ARB via its Smartbar operation in Adelaide.

The company claims the FPS is a real win for it with Smartbar ARB having been given a Letter of no Objection (LONO) by the VWAG R&D Team in Germany for the integrated bar.

SpartanBar model designed specifically for the Crafter has been fully designed and made in Australia, using a hollow, poly-etheleyne design which they claim provides superior frontal protection with the ability to flex and absorb on impact, then return to shape in cases of an accident, while still being compatible with all on-board safety and driver- assist systems.

Fitting the Crafter 35 MWB with the Smartbar ARB conversion adds $3,658 to the price of the van, is available now and is backed by a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty.

More a recreational vehicle rather than a commercial, the Crafter Kampervan Conversion by leading caravan and RV maker Jayco was another impressive conversion at the launch

The Jayco developed Crafter Kampervan conversion will be available in three grades

At 6.8 metres long and 2m wide, the Crafter Kampervan contains all fixtures needed to make life on the road possible.

The Kampervan Style with alloy wheels and two-tone paint is $150,440 plus on-road costs and comes with 4Motion all wheel drive, 17 inch alloy wheels with Continental tyres, seating for four, sleeping for up to three and multiple dining and seating areas

As a camper it comes  with fresh and waste water tanks, a full internal bathroom including toilet and shower , a full kitchen including wo burner gas cooktop, microwave, refrigerator, sink, fresh water, ample storage and bench space, reverse cycle air-conditioning,  TV and DVD stereo with internal and external speakers, a lithium house battery with additional solar system, diesel heating , a hot water system, LED internal and external lighting, an external awning as well as App connect and a Wifi extender.

The Crafter with Tipper is a foray into some additional development and potential market demand for VGA.

The tipper body for Crafter comes from  UK company Ingimex is currently being used to test and gauge demand for a unit like this in the tough conditions in Australia.

Suitable for both carrying and tipping loads, the Ingimex tipper is a lightweight, high strength body with a market leading payload.

The Ingimex tipper  is designed and tested to the latest standards, fitted with an array of features as standard and is easily adapted to allow for the addition of optional modifications.

As we said Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles is using this example for assessment and testing, ahead of any further decision on its suitability for the Australian market.

Ingimex is also the partner  for the the Crafter 50 Box Body, which is a new entrant to the range, with an even higher payload that is class-topping for the sub-4.5 tonne truck class that can driven on a car licence.

VW says it has been designed to be lightweight, yet robust, while the body itself is almost half-a-tonne lighter than any comparable body. The body is all complete excluding tail lift, which is an optional extra.

The 4490 model on display had a payload just shy of 1.75 tonnes, while there are also options, including fitting a 500kg Column-Mounted or a Cantilever Mounted Tail Lift with 1.0tonne lifting capacity.

The Box Body comes “pre-prepared” as a kit from the UK ready to mount one or the other solution, thanks to the Factory Tail Lift Preparation, adapted Rear CrossMember and a pre-installed second battery; to meet the all demands, placed on it.

The shutter system is integrated in the roof for maximum security. The Crafter’s flat surfaces make it perfect for signwriting or wrapping.

The Crafter 50 Box Body has just gone on-sale, with 22 versions set to be with the VW Australia network by Christmas, with more in 2023, with a  price from $79,990 plus on-road costs.

Another first for Volkswagen is the Crafter with Cold Goods Body, built by Premium Conversion Partner, Carlsen Baltic in Lithuania

Carlsen Baltic is a market leading manufacturer of light refrigerated truck bodies for food distribution, throughout Europe and the world.

The lightweight, yet strong and one of the most thermally efficient bodies available today. The Crafter with Cold Goods Body is complemented by a Eutectic Cooling System that does not require any engine power to keep the body cold during transport runs. This means that it does not require the vehicle to be running to keep goods at optimal cold temperature, for example.

This solution is perfect for the transition to zero emissions commercial vehicles, as it only requires power via a 3-phase plug “back at base”.

The body on display is a -40 degrees Celsius Frozen Goods Truck.

With a 6-hour “pull-down” time, the Crafter Cold Goods can stay under its’ target temperature for between 9 and 13 hours, depending on how many times the doors are opened and closed.

This example on display at the launch is currenly being used to provide real-world testing data in Australia’s broad and tough conditions, to fine-tune to our particular climate.

It is being sent to a cold goods distributor, then further north in Australia, to provide feedback and real-world climate testing data back to the manufacturer in real time – via the connected GPS tracking system with temperature sensors.

Estimated pricing for this solution, if the decision is made to move ahead with an Australian on-sale date, would be circa-$130,000 plus on-road costs.

The Amarok V6 Highline 580S, which was used as the Volkswagen AG (VWAG) R&D Evaluation Vehicle at our headquarters in Germany for its testing and evaluation, and final Factory Certification was the other Conversion vehicle shown at the lauch.

This vehicle was driven, measured, tested and inspected by the VW factory team in Germany, and then ultimately awarded with its Letter of No Objection (LONO) for the Conversion.

This is one of the first examples, of a Certified Conversion, by an Australian Converter, with the VW pick up featuring a V6 Turbo Diesel with 580 Nm torque,  coupled to an 8- Speed torque converter automatic , with Walkinshaw W Series Body Parts, 20 “ alloy Clayton wheels fitted with Pirelli Scorpion ATR Tyres (275 / 50 R20)