The van has seized the What Van? title for 12 successive years but this is the first time under the Piaggio LTV (light transportation vehicles) brand. The Italian group, which also makes motorcycles, including Vespa scooters, last year stopped supplying Daihatsu UK with the seven-model van range which was rebadged as the Hi-Jet.
Paul Kashman, Piaggio LTV sales and marketing manager for the UK, says: “The parting with Daihatsu was amicable, but the group decided it was time to take control of distribution in the UK and create its own network.”
Piaggio has 31 UK dealers, which include the Cambridge-based Marshall Motor Group and West Yorkshire’s Hepworth Group. The company wants 70 dealers by the end of next year and a complete network of 200 in 2006. It is trying to fill gaps in the Midlands, the North-west and up through the borders to Glasgow.
This year, sales were fewer than 200 but Kashman says: “We don’t mind low sales at the moment because it is important to develop the right dealer network. Next year we expect 500-700 sales in the UK but that may turn out to be a conservative estimate. We’re a bolt-on franchise, and fit well with dealers selling larger vans such as LDVs.”
The What Van? judges, in presenting the award, praised the Porter’s city-centre manoeuvr- ability, country lane handling, practicality and versatility.
The Porter is 10 years old but Piaggio is developing LPG and electric versions which offer the prospect of further growth beyond the petrol and diesel derivatives.
Rivals for the Porter, built in northern Italy at Pontedera, near Pisa, are the Daihatsu Extol and Suzuki Carry.