Positive Road Ahead for Commercial Vehicle Sector – Thomas Hilse, Brand President, Iveco

Jul 17, 2020

Unlike the recession of 2008/2009, the commercial Vehicle marketplace is in a better position to come out of the downturn for a number of reasons, according to Thomas Hilse, Brand President, Iveco. In an exclusive interview with Executive members of the International Van of the Year Award Jury (IVOTY), Mr. Hilse stated that a quicker turnaround is imminent: “Unlike the last time, where it took over five years to recover, due to better Government positioning and reaction this time around and that the banking system is better prepared.”

He also mentioned that the various commercial vehicle brands were there to support its dealer network and in turn could assist their customers; “so that liquidity could remain”. Also, in deference to the last occasion, the transport sector remained buoyant, as operators provided a vital service to the needs of the health system and the general public.

Thomas acknowledged that the continuous growth in ecommerce will help clawback light commercial sales, borne out by Iveco’s “good order intake for the Daily range”, which indicates a “quicker rebound” as he said.

“The medium to heavy segments will react more slowly,” he estimates, as fleet replacement cycles will remain somewhat normal.

Covering a number of topics, the interview focused initially on the future of the ultra-successful Daily range. Updated last year with up-to-date connectivity and advanced safety systems, the next versions will feature next generation electric powertrains. Following the launch of a revised version of the existing model, which is due towards the end of the year and into 2021, Thomas said that the specific merits of the Daily will evolve “into the electric world, such as durability, reliability and that that its unique chassis frame lends itself to the fitting of the battery packs etc.”

“Due for launch in 2022, we feel it’s the right time for the introduction of the next generation Daily Electric, from a fleet and retail buyer perspective,” he added.

Thomas cited that more city restrictions will be in place, with Government support to drive towards zero emission and benefit from the economic stimulus. “Even during the COVID-19 lockdown here in Turin, we were able to see what our cities could be like in the future, with less traffic, lower emissions and reduced noise.” Cities like Turin will therefore push harder to implement zero emission zones. But Thomas is of the opinion the ‘Path to Zero’ is not confined to Electric Mobility and mentioned the Natural Gas, particularly Bio sourced, can reach the required target. “Battery technology can adequately cover last mile requirements but over longer distances, Biomethane Natural Gas is the answer.”

“Exceptions on road tolls and other tax incentives, will help to cover the additional initial costs,” he added and exampled Germany’s Federal Government in this regard.

With reference to the Daily Vision concept premiered a few years ago, Thomas stated that some aspects of the prototype’s design was ‘spot-on’ in terms of application and connectivity elements but gave the thumbs down to hybrid (petrol/diesel-electric) drivetrains as a long-term option. In addition, in his estimation, the panel van design will have to giveaway to the chassis/cab body application as operators in the ecommerce, express parcel sectors seem to prefer.

Similarly, as an advocator of hydrogen fuel cell (H2) technology, he doesn’t see this water based clean propulsion system as suitable for light commercials as yet. (Interestingly, Renault Pro+ is about to introduce H2 as a hybrid option in its vans.)

At the heavier end of Iveco’s Business Line, the tie-up with progressive USA based start-up to co-produce the new H2 powered Tre (based on the new S-Way flagship) is already paying off. The new trucks will be manufactured at Iveco’s Ulm plant in Germany, the current location of the Magirus Deutz factory. This facility will benefit from the €7 billion, the Federal Government in investing in this fuel cell technology to make Germany the ‘Heart of Hydrogen’ innovation and development. And with 400 H2 refuelling stations planned for across Europe, “it will more than satisfy the needs of the fuel cell powered HGV sector,” he added.

Iveco’s initial collaboration with Nikola will lead to bigger things as future product developments “necessitates co-operations,” stated Thomas. Expect therefore to see electrified versions of the Iveco Eurocargo medium duty truck range and on sale in Nikola’s home patch in North America and its not beyond the realms of possibility that the next Daily family could make its way across the Atlantic to CNH Industrial dealerships over there. Both vehicles would fill a gap in Nikola’s line-up as the heavy duty range is covered by the One and Two (bonneted) trucks and with the new Badger H2/EV Pick-up category for the lower weight category.

Thomas’ take on autonomous driving has changed and that this advanced driverless technological developments should be “scaled back” – “as the technology will be fully established long before the legislation will allow it to happen.”

Without conformity across country borders, autonomous driving will not work as its efficiency can only be achieved over long distance routes. “Drivers will always be needed,” he stressed.

Thomas is pleased with the positive reaction of the new S-Way, endorsed by a strong order book, and soon we will see the launch of the new T-Way (Trakker replacement) heavy duty construction truck to play a major role, alongside the X-Way, recently introduced.

Further potential is to be achieved with expanded Daily range with the CNG Natural Power variant, having its range distance extended to 750km and the 4×4 version going beyond 7.0 tonnes GVW. The expanded Daily line-up will therefore cater for both ends of the of the LCV segment – light to heavy, offering significant cost benefits to the owner operator.