At the NEC show in October 2011 the new Euro 5 versions of Fiat’s Ducato and Peugeot’s Boxer had only just been launched, so with the major indoor shows all done for 2012, I was interested to see how sales were going.

[tl:gallery index=0 size=460×307]New Comfort-Matic system is available on 130, 150 and 190 Ducato engines

Although many motorhome dealers still have stock of new Euro 4 models, most converters had Euro 5 versions of the Fiat Ducato and Peugeot Boxer on sale at the show. As many of you are doubtless aware, the Fiat and Peugeot base vehicles come from the same Spanish factory in Sevel. Yet they are far from identical.

The same, but different

Across both Fiat and Peugeot, the new engines are radically different and deliver lower CO2, particulate and noxious gas emissions required by legislation, while promising better fuel economy.

The new Peugeot engine line-up for motorhomes is: 2.2-litre Hdi 110bhp with 250Nm torque; 2.2-litre Hdi 130bhp with 320Nm torque and finally 2.2-litre HDi 150bhp with 350Nm torque. Fiat, on the other hand, has concentrated on the higher-powered engines for the UK market: the 2.3-litre 130bhp MultiJet II with 320Nm torque; 2.3-litre 150bhp MultiJet II with 350Nm torque and finally the 3.0-litre 180bhp MultiJet II Power with 400Nm torque.

Fiat and Peugeot differences

While Peugeot’s 2.2-litre Hdi 110bhp is well positioned for use in smaller, budget motorhomes, Fiat has opted out of this sector. Its analysis of UK-wide LCV sales shows the development of a right-hand-drive version of its new 2.0-litre 115bhp power-train could not be justified financially. At the other end of the price-range, the new 3.0-litre 180bhp MultiJet, with a variable geometry turbo, is ideal for large motorhomes. It is awesomely powerful and smooth to drive, despite offering better economy than the outgoing 160bhp MultiJet Euro 4 engine.

Fiat’s trump card, however, is its launch of three “Comfort-Matic” automatic transmission models: the 130, 150 and 180. The 180bhp version has been available since October but UK deliveries of the smaller models started only recently. The Practical Motorhome team will soon have a 150bhp version to road-test.

Auto options available at last

The Turin-based Fiat commercial unit responsible for van conversions has contributed greatly to the development of motorhomes in the last six years, but the lack of smaller, more affordable engines with automatic transmission has been disappointing.

From my time as Product Director of Swift Group, I know that requests for an auto-version of the 130bhp MultiJet engine started from the moment it was launched in 2006, because customers did not want the extra cost of the 160bhp MultiJet auto in a small or budget motorhome. So I predict that the arrival of 130 and 150bhp versions will boost the numbers of automatics sold. In my opinion, it will also give people reason to upgrade to a new motorhome, stimulating sales.

Industry view

I spoke to Scott Stephens, General Sales and Marketing Manager of Auto-Trail, who said it has offered both 130bhp and 150bhp Comfort-Matics since September and this has dramatically increased the company’s orders for automatics.

Swift Group, which offers the 150bhp Comfort-Matic in the Swift, Bessacarr and Autocruise brands, has had a similar experience. Commercial Director Nick Page told me, “Normally we only order Comfort-Matics from Fiat to match retail orders, but we are so confident about sales of the new versions that we have speculated with forward orders so we can offer customers shorter delivery times. Sales have more than doubled compared to last season and we expect more growth when we offer the 130bhp version later in the year”.

Market potential

Europe-wide, Fiat reports an increased demand for Comfort-Matics. It says 50 per cent of 180bhp engines and 20 per cent of 150bhps are now ordered as automatics. Figures are not yet available for the 130bhp ‘vans which have only just become available. Fiat expects more growth in sales of these smaller ‘vans, as availability and customer awareness grow.

Meanwhile Peugeot, which has opted not to develop automatic options, could come under pressure, as demand grows for motorhomes with automatic gearboxes.

For more info about Comfort-Matic, see the May issue of Practical Motorhome, on sale March 15.

To read more on the various motorhome base vehicles, click here.