Britain’s growing 1.0-tonne-payload purpose-built 4×4 pickup market looks set to expand even further as more and more manufacturers pile into the sector. Fiat Professional now has the Fullback available to order, Renault’s Alaskan will appear here in 2017, and both Mercedes-Benz and the PSA Group (Peugeot and Citroen) have models in the pipeline.
However, the established players aren’t going to give ground easily…
Ford has recently revised the Ranger, likewise Nissan has revisited the NP300 Navara, Toyota has a revamped Hilux on sale and it has not been long since Mitsubishi upgraded the L200. Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles will have the new Amarok in dealerships towards the end of this year/early 2017 powered by a V6 3.0-litre diesel producing up to 224hp. Isuzu should not be ignored, with a redesigned D-Max set to appear in December.
It is worth noting that some of these models bear distinct similarities to one another thanks to a series of joint-venture deals.
The Fullback is virtually identical to the L200. The Alaskan is a close relative to Navara, and the Mercedes pickup that is in the offing will use the same platform as both.
It is also worth noting that the stress, so far as most manufacturers are concerned, is on double-cab models; vehicles likely to appeal to leisure users as well as customers who need them as working tools.
Existing dealers are well aware that pickups offer plenty of scope for the sale of extras, a point dealers new to the sector will need to grasp if they are to maximise profit margins.
New Pickups Need New Accessories
Pickup manufacturers invariably have their own accessories programme. Isuzu (UK) for example does, and added the Alpha Type-E canopy for the D-Max double-cab to its line-up earlier this year.
Features include tinted glazing all round, a paint finish that matches the truck’s own finish, brushed-alloy roof bars with cross- bars, a heated rear window and central locking that works off a factory key.
“Four-wheel-drive pickups are the most accessorised vehicles in the ranges of the manufacturers that make them, with around 45% sold with load bed covers,” says Simon Rhodes, Sales and Marketing Director at Leeming Bar, Northallerton, North Yorkshire-based NLG 4×4 Accessories. “That includes both hard and soft tonneau covers, retractable tonneau covers and full-sized canopies.”
They are all designed to keep whatever is in the load bed dry, and provide items such as tools with a lot more security than they would enjoy if they were left exposed.
NLG has recently launched a new range of canopies under the Pro/Top banner with LED interior lighting and a built-in moulded roof rail system. They can be ordered with optional gull-wing doors for easier side access.
Customers are not solely looking for load area canopies. Some of them are also in the market for dampers which allow tailgates to be released with one hand then lowered gently and with the minimum of drama.
“Remember that you are dealing with a 20kg piece of metal that needs to drop through 90 degrees then finish up at right-angles to the vehicle,” Rhodes observes.
Load-bed extenders to make it easier to load and unload heavy items such as generators are popular too and so are seat covers. Upholstery can get messy if you are working in muddy conditions.
To these can be added roof-mounted beacons, tool chests that can be secured in the load area, and tow-bars.
A lot of pickups haul trailers. The supplying dealer should ensure that the customer concerned understands that he or she may need to fit and use a tachograph, and obey the heavy truck Drivers Hours rules depending on the gross train weight of the trailer and the towing vehicle.
Made for Leisure and for Work
Many of the items listed above are tailored to the needs of pickups bought to do a job by a construction company or a utility. As indicated above however, there is a strong leisure market for pickups.
As a consequence there is scope to sell owners items such as light bars, side steps and stylish hardtops like the Alpha Type-E referred to earlier. It is a market catered for, in part, by a wide range of special editions; Mitsubishi’s ability to market such packages effectively helped establish L200 in the UK.
Brierley Hill, West Midlands-based Auto Styling Truckman is among those companies supplying a wide range of extras. Managing Director Mike Wheeler acquired the old-established Truckman business – still a by-word for canopies – back in 2008 and still supplies hardtops under that well-known brand-name.
Last year it delivered over 160 to Network Rail. They were all fitted to the organisation’s Amaroks and Hiluxes by Clarks Vehicle Conversions of Carcroft, Doncaster along with a number of other items.
Other Auto Styling Truckman customers include SHB Hire, and the hardtop producer makes the point that it manufactures canopies in Britain. Most hardtops sold in the UK are imported, with Thailand – a major manufacturer of pickups with a big domestic market for them – a key source.
In recent months, Auto Styling Truckman has launched hardtops for the latest Hilux, NP300 Navara and Ranger. It has also introduced what it says is the first aluminium tonneau cover that can be fitted along with an optional styling roll bar and still be opened and closed.
“For many pickup owners it’s important to achieve a blend of style and function,” comments Wheeler.
Catering for Farmers Too
Addressing a different sector of the market, it has introduced a rear hardtop door for the D-Max and the L200 with an open grille for better air circulation so that farmers can more easily use their trucks to transport animals. “We have estate managers and people who go shooting in mind too,” says Wheeler.
Made from galvanised and powder-coated steel, the door is designed to be fitted to the solid-sided Truckman RS hardtop.
Another UK-based hardtop maker that caters for farmers is Ifor Williams of Corwen in Denbighshire. Although it is best-known as a major manufacturer of light trailers – its line-up includes everything from box-bodied models to tippers – the Welsh company also produces a range of pickup canopies made from aluminium and hot-dip galvanised steel.
They can be ordered with mesh rear doors or doors made from either glazed or unglazed aluminium. Side-access doors and locking kits are among the options.
While some pickup buyers favour polypropylene linings for their load beds, others prefer to have something sprayed on.
Speedliner’s polymer spray liner is lighter, and – unlike some of the cheaper plastic linings – will not crack in a hard frost. The company works through authorised independent dealers who may also be 4×4 specialists or body shops.
An Opening for Dealers
Pickups offer plenty of scope for dealer-based modifications that go somewhat further than installing a lockable tool box.
Isuzu (UK) for example is now promoting a dealer-fit suspension kit for the D-Max. It is said to enhance ride quality no matter whether the truck is full or empty, regardless of the road surface and does not restrict its ability to cross rough terrain.
Increasing the ride height by up to 40mm, the Pedders D-Max TrakRyder Lift Kit makes towing more comfortable too says Isuzu. The package retails at almost £1,400 plus VAT; and remember that installing such packages mean more workshop hours sold, as well as increased parts sales.