16 Jul 18

LAVs rise above their van origins and enter fleets

MPV drivers are switching to Leisure Activity Vehicles (LAVs) if an SUV does not fit the bill - or exceed the budget. Even more so now the latest models have become experts at hiding their LCV DNA.

Most OEMs are replacing their compact and midsized MPV models by SUVs or cross-overs – that is what the market wants. Examples are plentiful: the Citroën C3 Picasso became the C3 Aircross, the Opel Meriva reincarnated as the Crossland X and the Peugeot 5008 kept its name but clearly went ‘off-road’.

At the top end of the segment, large MPVs are a dying race: rather than replacing them by equally sized cross-overs, most car makers pull the plug on them. Gone are the glory days of the Citroën C8, Ford Galaxy, Peugeot 807 and VW Sharan. The only model that seems to survive reasonably well is the Renault Espace. Its maker made the excellent choice of moving the model up the social ladder and turning it into a luxury cruiser, giving up space and practicality for style and premium content.

Don’t call me van

But what about customers who need exactly that: room for 3 to 5 kids and their stuff plus the flexibility to transform their car from a people mover to a moving truck? In a growing number of cases, they find salvation in a vehicle category that goes by the name Leisure Activity Vehicles or Multispace. The French being French – and basically the inventors of this niche in the mid-90s – they gave this type of car the name ludospace.

The Citroën Berlingo, Peugeot Partner and Renault Kangoo are the founding fathers of LAV-ism and have become true icons. Unlike the Opel Corsa Combo and the VW Caddy from 1995, they didn’t look as if they were small LCVs with some extra trim to cover bear metal and screws. They added a fun element, a sense of adventure and street credibility. It was actually cool to be dropped off at school in a holiday inspiring yet pretensionless vehicle.

The market has changed incredibly since then, though. Consumers want more safety, more refinement and comfort, more connectivity. An entry-level diesel or petrol with a 5-speed manual doesn’t do it anymore. That’s what PSA understood very well when they developed the latest generation of their LAVs, and this time, Opel – logically – joins the French party, leveraging economies of scale even more.

More B2B, less B2C

Earlier this month, Auto Actu reported a sales increase of 22% in the ludospace segment over the past 4 years. In 2017, the LAV segment represented three quarter of a million units in Europe, where the VW Caddy is clearly taking the lead, selling 135,000 times.

The French brands own 90 percent of their home market, with the Citroën Berlingo carrying the sales crown. However, according to Jato, LAV registrations (Kangoo, Dokker, Berlingo, Nemo, Rifter, Doblo, Qubo, etc) totaled 22,200 units through May 2018, down by 1.1%. Despite the growth of fleet registrationss (+0.9%), the segment was affected by a lower private demand (-2.5%) which counted for 57% of total LAV volume.

That seems to indicate that ludospaces are increasingly finding their way to company fleets. Jato explained that the drop is related to the aged Berlingo and Partner, which are due to be replaced by the new generations soon. “They were the 2nd and 3rd bestsellers (behind the Kangoo), and their registrations fell by 7.1% and 16% respectively. In contrast, Renault increased its Kangoo regs by 10.6%, and Dacia and Volkswagen did also very well with a 11.9% increase for the Dokker, and +22.7% for the Caddy”, a spokesperson told Fleet Europe.

Basically, PSA has lost some market share to VW and Renault in the transition period between old and new generation. Interestingly, today’s LAVs leave the factory fitted with lots of goodies until recently reserved for passenger cars. "40% of all Caddies sold are equipped with a DSG transmission and 8% come with all-wheel drive," the French marketing director for VW commercial vehicles highlighted. “The equipment is nearly on a par with our passenger cars and includes items like sat nav, cruise control and emergency braking (AEB)".

Picture copyright: PSA, Renault, 2018

Authored by: Dieter Quartier