Picking up the first prize for versatility

Transport is a key logistical aspect of any construction project. A range of vehicles is needed to ferry people, machinery and materials around the region’s building sites. But, as Zoe Naylor discovers, there is only one type of vehicle that demonstrates extreme versatility across all terrains.

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By  Zoe Naylor Published  June 17, 2006

|~|126prod200.gif|~||~|The reliability and long service life of pickup trucks makes them a popular choice for people living and working in the harsh desert climate of the Middle East. Gone are the days when pickups were the sole preserve of farmers and mechanics. Nowadays, they can be seen cruising the streets and beaches of the UAE at the weekend, as well as being used for work during the week. It is this versatility that makes pickups a popular choice for the region’s construction industry. Whereas Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs) are designed primarily for ‘people carrying’, pickups can transport people in the cab, as well as materials and machinery in the open-top cargo area in the back. According to Tariq Danish, marketing manager (pickups and SUVs), Nissan Middle East, the one-tonne Nissan Pickup is a popular model in the region. “These are popular because they can be used to transport people — they have six-seater dual cabins, and at the same time they can carry tools or machinery in the back,” he says. These one-tonners are particularly popular with the smaller maintenance companies. While pickups are usually available in both 2WD and 4WD, Danish says that construction companies often prefer the 4WD function — especially if the sites are far away. “However, we do see a lot of the smaller maintenance companies and construction firms that have sites in the city, preferring the 2WD version,” he adds. Not all of Nissan’s pickups are available in the Middle East region: some of the larger models in particular are not on offer here due to lack of demand. “Some of the pickups such as the Nissan Titan (which we don’t market here and is only available in the US market) has a big engine e.g. five or six litres, along with the Toyota Tundra, which is also available in the US market. The demand for these big-engine vehicles is not so high, therefore we don’t offer them here.” However, he says the smaller models i.e. in the range of 2.7 to 4 litre engines seem to be in greater demand in this part of the world. Most pickups models are available in petrol or diesel, but when it comes to the 4WD drive models, Danish says the diesel versions are a more popular option. “This isn’t really cost-based, because here in the UAE the cost of diesel and petrol is more or less the same,” he says. “But in markets like Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, where the price of diesel is very cheap, it’s more economical to go for diesel.” As markets go, Danish says that the UAE is one of the most important regions for Nissan. “We have a good market in this region and we sell quite a lot. In the UAE market in particular, construction companies often buy pickups as fleet vehicles. “But in Saudi Arabia (KSA), for example, the pickup user is different — they are often individual retail buyers. A lot of local customers there tend to buy pickups for personal use, for their families and also to use on their farms — they have multiple purpose. “I think this is to do with the flexibility of the vehicles — for the Bedouins in KSA who own farms, for example, they prefer to have a pickup because of the ease of cabin loads and space in the back.” In terms of new launches, Danish says Nissan will be introducing another small-engine model to its range in 2007. “Next year we will be launching a new pickup — it’s going to be a 1.5-tonne vehicle. We will be targeting fleet usage as well as individual customers,” he says. Another pickup that is in high demand in the region is the new Toyota Hilux. Al-Futtaim Motors represents Toyota in the UAE and, according to Tony Barlow, general manager, sales and marketing, the new Toyota Hilux combines power and performance for outstanding durability. “The Hilux’s all-round performance is built on the use of advanced Toyota technologies such as the high-rigidity frame and part-time 4WD system,” says Barlow. “These deliver the strength and power to easily handle varying terrain and conditions,” he adds. The use of CAE (Computer Aided Engineering) helps optimise the body structure and reduces noise and vibration, while the double wishbone front suspension provides good handling and contributes to ride comfort. Hilux models are available in a choice of 2.0L or 2.7L petrol engines with VVT-i (Variable ValveTiming — intelligent) providing increased torque, output, improved fuel economy and reduced emissions. A 2.5L diesel turbo (Direct Injection Common Rail) engine is also available on certain models. According to Barlow, the new Hilux sets new standards in active and passive safety — which is particularly useful when negotiating Dubai’s notoriously crowded roads and busy construction sites. “The use of high-tensile steel sheeting for the body contributes to the excellent rigidity,” explains Barlow. Three-point ELR (Emergency Locking Retractor) seatbelts are fitted in both front and rear seats, and a head and leg impact protection structure helps reduce the risk of injury in the event of a collision. Toyota’s new Hilux comes equipped with ventilated front disc brakes, while ABS (Anti-lock Braking System) is available on certain models to help ensure vehicle stability when braking on slippery roads or during sudden braking. “Toyota’s GOA (Global Outstanding Assessment) body provides the Hilux with the highest level of safety in its class,” adds Barlow. “The Hilux also incorporates a compatible body structure, which focuses on reducing the damage to smaller cars in a collision.” Mitsubishi is yet another Japanese manufacturer that is finding a welcome home for its pickup vehicles in the UAE. “Pickup trucks are widely used here along with trucks and other heavy-duty vehicles,” says Roger Ghosn, marketing manager (Mitsubishi), Al Habtoor Motors. “The region is very important for Mitsubishi given the construction boom the region is witnessing — particularly in the UAE,” he adds. Of its range of pickups available in the region, Ghosn says the Canter and the L200 are the best-selling models, while the L300 is also popular as a cargo-cum-passenger pickup model. While Japanese brands traditionally dominate the UAE’s pickup market, Chinese manufacturer Great Wall Motors has been exporting its pickups to the Middle East and African markets since 1998. Popular models include Great Wall’s Sailor double cabin pickup series incorporating a compact dimension and spacious cab interior. Another best-selling pickup is the Golden Deer regular double cabin model, which features two-circuit hydro-vacuum brake, front disc and rear drum system to help ensure safer driving. Golden Deer’s 491QE engine has digital controlled ignition and multi-point fuel injection system. Emissions are above the Euro II standard and yet still incorporate substantial engine power, fuel economy and low noise. Great Wall currently exports to more than 60 countries and areas. “Our products target the global market,” says Wang Fengying, GM, Great Wall Motors. “With the good performance of our pickup and SUV series, we aim to achieve a diversified product structure to occupy as many fields of international market as possible.” Accessing and navigating large construction sites in the desert is a logistical consideration for many of the region’s construction firms. Reliability, power and versatility are key considerations for any vehicle operating in this harsh climate — and that’s where pickup trucks can hold their own.||**||

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