Volkswagen has decided to chase a larger share of the light commercial ready to work market after unveiling a program that will see a number of factory approved bodies and conversions which it says will generally be available as a compete package ready to go from its dealer network.
This means that like the Japanese truck makers Volkswagen will offer a pantech cargo or a refrigerated on the Crafter cab chassis model, a 12 or a 15 seat mini bus conversion on the Crafter van and two stretched long wheelbase conversions on its popular Amarok.
The company briefed the commercial vehicle press on the its plans at its Sydney headquarters explaining that most of the offerings set to be available in the first quarter of 2020.
Volkswagen says the range will expand as the program is rolled out with a number of the conversions to be kept in stock enabling buyers to order and take delivery of their vehicles without having to wait for bodies to be built or conversion work to be carried out.
While the units on display were European designed and built conversions Volkswagen says it will be sourcing the conversions locally locally either as Australian suppliers licence the conversion or as the Euro suppliers set up local operations.
Importantly Volkswagen says the conversions will be fully approved and warranted with service and repair available through its network of around100 dealers nationally.
Volkswagen Group Australia, national conversion manager, Andrew Hester told the gathered media that the approved converters are required to meet the rigid factory engineering criteria and because of that the vehicles will still carry the normal five-year warranty.
“VGA has a breadth of capability it has never possessed and a range unrivalled elsewhere,” said Hester.
“The four top-to-tail solutions here are very much the tip of the iceberg. Volkswagen and its partners can engineer literally dozens of bespoke variants,” he added.
From a light truck perspective the Crafter cab chassis conversion with a ‘pantech’ Box Body was on display highlighting its light weight but clearly well engineered cargo body.
Volkswagen claims the Crafter with its GRP Box Body is almost half-a-tonne lighter than comparable bodies enabling the VW to deliver the highest payload in its class.
The Crafter Box Body 3.5tonne, front drive 3550 model, which VW had on show, boasts a payload just under a tonne while still being able to be driven on a car licence. The heavier 4.0 tonne version is being offered with 4 Motion all wheel drive and boasts a payload of just under1.5tonnes while the largest 4.49 tonne rear drive model offers a payload of a shade under two tonnes.
The body has been designed and built by UK company Ingimex which completes the conversion within the VW body builder program and it is looking at either licensing the body to an Australian company or potentially starting up a local operation to handle the builds. Andrew Hester says the fitting and finishing of the bodies would be handled at Volkswagens’ local preparation and finishing centres locate close to the major Australian ports before being shipped to dealers.
The Crafter Box Body on display was also equipped with the optional chain drive tail lift while the rear shutter door system is a high security design featuring interlocking shutter panels, with the door sliding back along the inside of the roof. Unlike a roller door this means less intrusion into the load space and less likelihood of the door being jimmied or pried open. Another point made by Hester was the fact that the smooth outer finish on the Crafter’s body which will make it ideal for sign-writing and wrapping.
Initially it will be available on a single cab chassis but a dual cab version is likely in the future.
The single cab chassis runs on a 4490 mm wheelbase and is available with either the TDi 340 or TDi410 engines coupled to the 8 speed torque converter auto
In terms of engine and gearbox options, all Crafters run the eight-speed auto but customers get a choice of the TDI340 and TDI410 engines within this range depending on the model.
Along with the Crafter cab chassis truck the Crafter mini bus conversion was also presented with either a 15-seat front drive version or a 12-seat 4Motion model.
The Crafter Minibus came about as a result of an Australian tender process which was won by Australian based conversion company, Amtek, which is based in the Sydney suburb of Revesby. Volkswagen says it takes it into a new and growing market for mini bus sales. Until the new Crafter mini buses, the nine seat Caravelle based on the smaller Transporter was the extent of its minibus offering.
VGA says the Crafter based bus represents a massive step forward in its capability and will also be available during 2020 in medium-and long-wheelbase. All will be equipped with the eight-speed torque converter auto, and will come with additional air-conditioning and heating in the rear passenger area along with a luggage compartment in the rear. Factory options will include satellite-navigation, LED headlights, trendline pack, and driver assist.
The 4Motion (12 seat MWB version can be fitted with a rear difflock and downhill assist as well as an electric step available on the front drive and cargo barrier on both versions as well as window tint and off-road componentry.
The other interesting Convert model show was a stretch version of the popular Amarok ute.
The extended-cab Amarok XL and XXL are both aimed at a range of applications from lifestyle uses such as camper bodied off road adventure vehicles to emergency services such as ambulances and potential military use.
The Amarok XL offers a 310mm extension to the dual cab which means you can have the longer single-cab tray length with a full dual-cab passenger area which will deliver huge potential to the ,off road adventure and camper market while also giving tradies a longer fit all tray without compromising passenger space.
The extended Amarok chassis was created in the Netherlands by Veth Automotive who engineered and designed the conversion. They have now partnered with Adelaide-based Adaptive Manufacturing which will undertake the conversion here in Australia
Both the XL and XXL will be offered with either the V6 or four-cylinder diesels mated to the eight-speed auto.
The XLL’s 650mm chassis extension offers even more potential for ambulance bodies and special off road applications, and both will carry the same warranty as the base vehicle as well as having a tested and reprogrammed version of VW’s electronic stability control (ESC) matched to the vehicle’s longer wheelbase.
They also showed a Tiguan Proline, based on Volkswagen’s popular small SUV and which has already found favour with the Victoria Police which is using it in a variety of applications and which VW hopes to convince other Police forces around the country to purchase.
The Tiguan Proline follows on from the company’s successful Passat Proline program, which has seen Passat Proline variants used by Victoria Police general duties and the high performance 206TSI 4MOTION Proline Wagons deployed by that state’s Highway Patrol and special duties operations
The Tiguan Proline has been designed for emergency first responders and is based on the Alltrack Comfortline with the third row of seating removed for greater equipment storage. It is powered by the 162kW/350Nm 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine originally tuned for the Golf GTI.
The bottom line according to Volkswagen is that the new factory endorsed range of conversions is designed to provide the most diverse range of “turn key” solutions on the Australian market, we can but agree.