CV Sector Features & Interviews TNB News Van

FEATURE: Five Minutes with Jarlath Sweeney, Chairman of International Van of the Year

30 October 2019 #CV Sector #Features & Interviews #TNB News #Van

In less than a month, more than 1,500 of the biggest players in the commercial vehicle industry across Europe will attend a gala dinner held as part of the SOULTRANS 2019 expo in Lyon. The event is not just the climax to one of the world’s most important industry gatherings; it’s also the venue for the presentation of the prestigious and influential International Van of the Year (IVOTY) and International Pick-up 2020 Awards (IPUA). Transport News Brief caught up with IVOTY chairman and highly respected Irish automotive journalist and publisher, Jarlath Sweeney, to find out more about this year’s awards and what goes on behind the scenes.

Tell us more about the International Van of the Year Awards.

International Van of the Year started in 1992 as a spin-off of International Truck of the Year and since then has gone from strength-to-strength, eventually becoming the institution it is today. The aim of the awards is to honour the research and development, innovation and investment made by commercial vehicle manufacturers in increasing operation efficiencies together with putting an environmentally-friendly stamp on their new products.

Which vehicles are up for an award this year?

There’s always a strong field for the van award and this year is no different, with some really strong and innovative contenders in the running.

These are the Fiat Ducato, Ford Transit Custom PHEV, Ford Transit EcoBlue Hybrid, Iveco Daily, Renault Master/Opel-Vauxhall Movano/Nissan NV40, and the Volkswagen Transporter T6.1.

When it comes to the Pick-up Award, established in 2009, our job is getting harder and harder every year as more and more manufacturers enter the segment.

This year, the shortlist is made up of the Ford Ranger, Mitsubishi L200, Nissan Navara, Renault Alaskan and Toyota Hilux.

Who decides which models make the shortlist and the eventual winners?

All of the judging is done by 25 expert panel members – one from each of the participating countries: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey. The representative from each country is an experienced and knowledgeable commercial vehicle journalist.

Which models are eligible for inclusion?

The vehicles eligible to be poked and prodded are any purpose-built light commercial vehicle up to 3,500kg, although vehicles must be significantly revised for consideration. A mildly facelifted existing model will not suffice. Any eligible vehicle sold in at least 12 countries is automatically included for assessment by the panel and subjected to a detailed evaluation and voting procedure.

Contributions to high standards of efficiency, environmental impact and ‘sustainability of the transport of light goods by road in the countries involved in the IVOTY organisation’ form the basis of the assessment criteria. Those that make the final round of testing face a thorough examination.

How does testing work?

We build the shortlist by taking a poll of our members who will have driven pretty much every new model released during the qualifying period. That’s when the serious testing begins.

Each year we bring the shortlisted models together in a selected country, hosted by a jury member, for three days of intensive testing an analysis.

Day 1 of the group test agenda includes appraisal of vehicle specifications, precise measurement of load-space and dimensions, capacity and payload. This is carried out alongside in-depth manufacturer presentations to ensure that no feature or technical innovation is missed, however subtle. Each vehicle undergoes careful analysis and benchmarking to ensure reliable, repeatable results.

Representatives from the nominated brands also have the opportunity to make technical presentations to the jury members during the event.

Dynamic testing is carried out on Day 2, which is where vehicles are tested as they would be as part of a hard-working fleet. This is where we take into consideration economy, driveability and safety, and performance – Pick-ups are also measured on a gruelling off-road course just like what we experienced at the Tierp Arena, outside Stockholm, just over a month ago.

Day 3 is judgement day. All stakeholders sit down to present their findings and discuss the merits of each vehicle before deciding on the winners of each award via a series of weighted votes.

What does success mean for the winning van/manufacturer?

You’d really have to ask a winning manufacturer that question but my feeling is that the award carries a lot of weight and can make a big difference to a van’s success.

Manufacturers invest a great deal of time and money getting their vehicles to the group testing venue and in sending their teams to present and I think that’s a real indication of just how seriously they take it. To highlight their success, the IVOTY or IPUA logo features prominently on the rear of their vehicles, produced over that year.

They understand that an accolade like International Van of the Year or International Pick-up Award can translate into sales.

Can you tell us this year’s winner?

I’m afraid not. That’s a closely guarded secret. You’ll have to stay tuned for the announcement in Lyon on 20 November.



Update Newsletter