Chinese manufacturer plans to launch entirely new model range by 2020, extending the brand with hopes for a 'massive future'.
LDV is stepping up its relaunch in the UK with a new model offensive that will see a whole new range of vehicles by 2020.
The long-standing British brand entered administration in 2009 and was acquired by China’s largest vehicle manufacturer, SAIC, the same year.
In 2016, Dublin-based vehicle importer Harris Group was awarded sole distribution rights for the UK and Ireland.
It used the 2016 Commercial Vehicle Show to relaunch both the brand and the V80 panel van.
Mark Barrett (pictured above), general manager of LDV, says: “Our main focus has been building the network and we are still building.
"Our concentration was to put the infrastructure in for the aftersales before we start really pushing the sales.”
At the moment LDV has 24 dealers in the UK and Barrett hopes to reach 30 before the end of next year.
“We are looking to continue expanding the network. As the product is changing and developing, it’s becoming lighter.
"Smaller vans are what we are expecting to become popular so we will adapt the network to specialise in lighter vehicles.
“We could probably look at having 60 dealers in the long term.
"Again, as the product changes, we could also have dealers that are specialists in the heavier vehicles, so there could be a slight split in the market,” he explains.
The V80 panel van is the only model currently available in the UK, while the first batch of the all-electric EV80 version lands this month.
READ MORE: First drive: LDV EV80 electric van review
In its first year, LDV shifted 1,300 vehicles.
“It was a little bit behind what we’d like,” says Barrett.
“We’d always like to do better. But we didn’t want to go out into the market putting vehicles everywhere without having the infrastructure in place. We’d rather walk before we start trying to run.”
Business sales have been focused on smaller, local firms rather than large-scale fleets as a lack of residual value (RV) forecasts prevented leasing and rental companies from showing an interest.
“The Cap forecasts are now on par with our French competitors,” says Barrett.
“This makes it a very feasible vehicle for the rental business.”
The company has recently delivered 10 V80 minibuses into Afford Rentals in Stafford and Barrett says other rental companies are starting to show an interest.
Despite being the cheapest van on the market, the V80 still has one Achilles heel – its Euro 5 engine.
Early next year an all-new Euro 6 motor will make its way into the V80, which Barrett hopes will boost its appeal further.
The run of new models will then continue and by 2020 the company will offer everything from an 800kg van up to 5.5-tonnes – with powertrain options of petrol, pure-EV, plug-in hybrid and conventional diesel.
There will also be a T60 4x4 pickup with a diesel powertrain, the EG10 electric people carrier and a D90 SUV, which will have a petrol plug-in hybrid.
Barrett says: “Our plan is to launch a new product at the CV Show every year, whether it’s a domestic model or not.
“Last year we showed a production version of the EV80 and the EG10. Hopefully by the CV Show in 2018 we’ll have a production EG10 and something else new to show.”
A new platform for the V80 is also due in Q3 2019.
SAIC has committed to a £2.25 billion investment in LDV by 2020 – £600 million of which is to be spent on alternative powertrain technology.
Barrett expects to sell in excess of 500 EV80s next year as the industry shifts towards alternative fuels.
“A lot of people think EVs are popular in London only, but we go to EV events to see who is attending.
"Apart from local authorities; it’s universities, courier firms and big blue chip companies that are city-based,” he says.
“We’ve noticed other manufacturers announcing large panel vans coming into the marketplace. There is a lot of hype over a large electric panel van.”
The EV80 is available as a panel van or chassis cab, with a number of bodies including Luton, dropside and tipper. A small chiller can also be fitted for home grocery deliveries.
Barrett says powertrain development at SAIC, which also owns the MG car brand, went from nothing to everything.
“At the last global conference we got a chance to look at the product range from both LDV and MG.
“People still think that China is far behind Europe, especially when it comes to innovation.
"But when you are there, physically driving the products, it’s clear they are up there with the rest of the world.”
Harris Group made its first trade mission to China in 2004.
“It was clear to us that they weren’t ready for Europe then and were still a long way away. But we’ve been watching China since,” says Barrett.
Progress started to accelerate in 2010 and the team at Harris has been going back three times a year since, dealing with different manufacturers.
“When SAIC bought LDV, the commitment they had to developing and growing the brand made us feel there was a massive future with it,” Barrett says.
“Every year since we started to deal with them the model range has expanded.
“Now they are looking at a small Renault Kangoo-size van, which was never on the cards at the beginning.
"The speed of acceleration from them is just amazing,” he adds.
READ MORE: LDV: Back from the ashes and aiming for 10%
The decision to bring new products to the UK is a joint decision between Harris Group and SAIC.
“The question SAIC asks at the moment is about the feasibility of a small electric van. We start off first to see if it’s feasible to bring it into the marketplace, then they decide whether to sign it off.”
The biggest problem Barrett faces compared to his fellow right-hand-drive distributors is that other countries, including China, are behind the UK when it comes to emissions regulations.
“They’ve launched the T60 pick up and D90 already in Australia and New Zealand because they will accept them with a larger petrol and Euro 5 diesel engine,” he says.
The development is on track, however. “With the speed of change in China, I’d say the whole country will be up to Euro 6 within a year or two,” Barrett adds.
EV80 has already been launched into Europe and SAIC is “way ahead” with plug-in hybrids, according to Barrett.
Similarly, the company has developed a hydrogen fuel cell powertrain and Barrett believes it is only a matter of time before it is launched into the European market.
Barrett concluded by saying: “LDV has been and gone, we are often asked ‘what’s stopping them doing the same again’ and it’s down to the strength of our own company and the investment we’ve made in the distributorship side of it.
“I’m confident for the future of LDV and the future of the brand in the UK and Ireland.