Volkswagen Commercial is rolling out a range of ‘turnkey’ specialist vehicles such as a wheelchair-friendly Caddy and Crafter-based tippers, refrigerated trucks, and luxury motorhomes.
Rather than having to buy basic vehicles and take them to a specialist converter, these advertisements for this purpose are (or will be) available out of the box from VW dealerships – with guarantees.
Conversion work is carried out by Volkswagen approved third parties (OEM level) in Europe and the UK with long standing relationships with VW, or by partner organizations in Australia such as Jayco, Walkinshaw and ARB.
Seven “conversion” variants – either confirmed for Australia or currently being evaluated and tested – were unveiled last week at Volkswagen Group Australia’s new Essendon Fields office and training facility, to promote the division and to arouse market interest.
Already a major focus for the company in its home country, Volkswagen’s Commercial Vehicles division says it sees this as a big part of its future in Australia and a key differentiator.
“We know from the success of the Australian-designed Walkinshaw Amarok and Crafter Kampervan that there are great opportunities for Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles to provide even more suitable solutions for a variety of recreational and specialist needs,” says Director Ryan Davies
“From ambulance fleets to wheelchair access vehicles, refrigerated transport to heavy-duty dump trucks, the Caddy and Crafter in particular provide the ideal foundation for providing versatile, integrated solutions – factory guaranteed, turnkey solutions hands ready to use.
“These seven vehicles show Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles’ clear intention to expand beyond the production vehicles available in showrooms.”
Caddy Maxi Life with wheelchair access conversion
This is the first appearance in Australia of a vehicle of the “soon to be available” Caddy wheelchair accessible conversion, based on the Caddy Maxi.
The vehicle is being converted by a 400-employee company called AMF-Bruns GmbH headquartered in Lower Saxony, billed as Europe’s leading manufacturer of vehicles for people with reduced mobility.
The Caddy Wheelchair Accessible Conversion is now homologated for the Australian market with a target release date of late 2023. It already has full European homologation and over 350 examples have already been sold in New Zealand.
VW says that in the advertised six-seat spec, it will cost around $25,000 more than the Caddy Maxi it’s based on, suggesting a price tag of around $80,000. Five- and seven-seat configurations are available.
Features include an ‘Easyflex’ ramp with a cut-out floor that folds under the vehicle, folding headrest and backrest for the wheelchair occupant with a crash tested restraint system at 20g (forces) and extra-long wheelchair belts.
The vehicle can be serviced at any VW dealer and conversion maintenance (e.g. for the hydraulic lift) will be taught to dealers with the support of AMF-Bruns.
While a major benefit is the turnkey nature of this machine, VW says it will be able to charge for the vehicle and the conversion separately – for organizations that need it like the government’s NDIS.
Crafter with Smartbar SpartanBar Polycarbonate Bull Bar
This Crafter modification was developed from a direct request from the emergency services for use on their ambulances, as Volkswagen attempts to muscle up on the turf traditionally owned by the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter.
Local company Smartbar (an ARB 4×4 accessory brand) has received what is known as a ‘letter of no objection’ from Volkswagen AG in Germany, meaning it is considered a supplier of good faith.
Smartbar is locally known for developing frontal protection systems for fleets, emergency services and mining, and this product has been designed and manufactured in Australia.
The hollow polyethylene design provides frontal protection as well as the ability to flex and absorb impact, then spring back. He weighs 53 kg.
It is compatible with all common Australian emergency vehicle driver assistance systems and accessories
The Crafter 35 MWB with Smartbar ARB conversion is now on sale starting at $3658 above the cost of the Crafter 35 MWB.
Crafter double cab with tipper
This one is a toe in the water, with VW saying there’s “potential market demand”.
It is created by a company called Ingimex, which bills itself as the UK’s largest manufacturer of light commercial vehicle bodies.
Features include full-height embossed steel panel construction, high-strength steel platform with six-step electronic coating, double-walled aluminum sideboards, tailgate with side locks, cargo tie-down three-level load and a 400 kg gantry capacity.
Crafter single cabin with box
Another creation from Ingimex, the Crafter box is designed to tackle the Isuzu N-Series cab-dominant truck.
It can be driven on a car license with a GVM of less than 4.5t and has a claimed payload of around 1.75t.
Payload is maximized since the body itself is almost half a ton lighter than any comparable body, according to VW, and comes complete except for the optional additional tail lift.
The body of the box is pre-prepared to mount column or cantilever lifts with its rear crossmember adapted and its second battery pre-installed. The shutter system is integrated in the roof.
The Crafter box body is now on sale, with 22 vehicles expected to be in the dealer network by Christmas – and more in 2023 – priced at $79,990 plus road charges.
It has three seats including an ErgoComfort driver’s seat with massage, an eight-speed automatic transmission, rear-wheel drive with twin rear tires and a four-level load-restraint system.
Crafter single cab with eutectic refrigerated box
A product of Carlsen Baltic UAB Lithuania, market leader in refrigerated truck conversions in Europe and a recognized priority partner of VW.
The exposed body is used to provide real-world test data in the Australian climate. It is sent to a cold food distributor and then further north to provide feedback via the GPS tracking system with temperature sensors.
It uses a eutectic cooling system that requires no motor power to keep the body cool during runs – just a three-phase plug at the base and six hours of “unwind” time. As long as you don’t leave the doors open too long, it’s designed to hold a temperature for up to 1 p.m.
It’s advertised as having an operating temperature of -33°C to -20°C, and for the engineers among us, it has a K-value of ≤ 0.27 W/m²K.
The estimated price, “if the decision is made to go ahead with an Australian on-sale date”, would be around $130,000 plus road costs, VW says.
There are no exhaust emissions from eutectic refrigeration, no operating noise and “continuous cooling” even when the vehicle engine is off. It has full European and Australian type approval.
Crafter Kampervan by Jayco
This 6.8m long luxury motorhome manufactured by Jayco in Dandenong, Melbourne, has three beds, dining and seating area, indoor bathroom, kitchen with gas cooktop, sinks, lithium home battery with solar power, outdoor awning and more.
It also comes with standard 4Motion all-wheel drive and costs $150,440 plus road charges with alloy wheels and two-tone paint. Rather than detailing everything here, read our separate in-depth story here.