News : LDV Returns! Well, to Ireland at least…

Craig Cheetham

LDV Logo1


It may not be a name steeped in glamour, but as one of the stalwarts of the former BMC/BL empire, LDV was one of the hardiest survivors. Now it’s back – well, in a sense.

In the past few weeks, LDV has relaunched in Ireland, with talk of a return to the UK not being ruled out by the company’s bosses. The brand has just launched a new website, showing the new V80 (a mildly-restyled Maxus) outside the famous Guinness distillery at St James’s Gate in Dublin.

LDV has returned to the Irish market
LDV has returned to the Irish market

Today’s LDV is not, of course, LDV as we knew it. The prospect of production returning to Washwood Heath is nil, or, indeed, to anywhere in the UK for that matter…

Following LDV’s protracted demise in 2009, after its Russian then-owners, GAZ Group, failed to make the business work, the intellectual property rights to the Maxus van were acquired by the ubiquitous Chinese industrial giant SAIC Motor – a name that needs no introduction to those who’ve closely followed the post-MG Rover MG Motor saga.

The original Maxus was launched in the UK in 2004
The original Maxus was launched in the UK in 2004

A moderately restyled Maxus, sold as either V80 or Maxus V80 depending on the market, was relaunched in June 2011 and has been sold in several emerging markets, including China, Malaysia and Turkey, while it took the much bolder move of entering the Australian market in 2013. That, of course, meant full right-hand drive production, which means that the Maxus, already fully type-approved for UK use, could be well poised to make a return.

LDV launched in Australia in 2013, marking a return to right-hand-drive production
LDV launched in Australia in 2013, marking a return to right-hand-drive production

The major sticking point at the moment is the engine. SAIC Motor uses an Italian-built 2.5-litre VM unit in the V80, which isn’t currently Euro6 compliant. However, it will be soon and that could easily open the floodgates for a keen importer to bring the brand back to the UK market.

In the meantime, if you really want to get behind the wheel of an LDV, the opportunity is there in Ireland. Just remember to fill it up with the black stuff before you drive it home…

Australian customers can choose a chassis cab as well as a panel van
Australian customers can choose a chassis cab as well as a panel van


[Editor’s Note: Our thanks to Roger Blaxall for his input to this article.]


Craig Cheetham


    • Yes, I would have expected the Euro 6 requirements to be the same in the UK and Ireland.
      Is LDV Ireland a trading name for an Irish importer? I assume it’s not owned by SAIC.

    • Euro 6 comes into affect in Ireland by the following deadlines:

      M1, M2 and N1 Class I Type Approval 01/09/2014 Registration 01/09/2015

      N1 Classes II and III, N2 Type Approval 01/09/2015 Registration 01/09/2016

      Not sure what N1 class a Maxus is though, but it looks like a tight deadline to find a new engine.

      • After this September newly launched cars have to be Euro 6. Cars/Vans currently on sale have till Sept 2016. So they (and MG for the 6) have 18 months to get the engine set-up sorted.

  1. 10 years since the Maxus was launched? I hadn’t realised that it was that long ago, and the Maxus (due to its slow development programme) wasn’t exactly cutting edge even then…

    • But Vans are not nor should they be cutting edge, it was well accepted when it arrived in the market and given a Euro 6 engine, some further development in noise / vibration suppression / drivetrain and an interior refresh it would be just as good as the current offering from Ford, Fiat, Reanult, PSA etc.

      Sadly given SAIC failure over the last 10 years at Longbridge to really mount a challenge on the UK market, I doubt they will do the same with the Maxus.

      Which again is a shame, because as GM to Fords expense have shown owner drivers “white van man” likes his van built in the UK. Given the lack of activity at Longbridge I would think a CKD Maxus could be worthwhile venture to get some free publicity for their UK presence and create some extra trade for their dealers.

  2. “cutting edge” are words I would not of used either, I work for a Global Car Hire Company and we used to have LDV 9 seater Minibuses and Vans on fleet not that many years ago, obviously they were cheap to buy but were no where near as well made or as reliable as the Transit, I recall them being noisey, slow and full of old BL switch gear, Montego/Maestro heated rear window switch, hazard warning light switch, Fog Light Switch…..etc set into what I recall is a dash made out of the plastic they used to make butter tubs from !

    Didn`t they have the old transit Diesels in too ?

    I wish them all the success but I do hope as well as just a moderately restyled exterior they have done a MASSIVELY restyled interior.

    • Sounds like you are talking about the Pilot (or Convoy)- I don’t recall the Maxus having any recognisable BL kit at all.

      Although the central speedo was inspired by the early Mini and Minors. Funny how quickly you got used to it- I’d expected it to be quite distracting.

    • The Convoy, before the Maxus, had Ford’s 2.5 diesel, and Pilot and Convoy had Maestro and Montego switchgear. Maxus was different, with a VM engine and some switchgear, and steering wheel, from the Daewoo Matiz and Lanos.

  3. ‘Noisey’…? You do not even know how to spell the word.

    ‘A dash they used to make butter tubs from’…? Oh – just like a Mercedes, you mean? Or are you worried about the central dashboard, just like a BMW Mini or any old British sports car or Jag?

    ‘Didn’t they used to have old transit diesels in too?’ No.

    I drive a ’62 LWB Sprinter for work and a’57 LWB Maxus for pleasure. The Sprinter is a Frankenstein van; if the ABS and Traction Control fail then you will get to ride in a hearse. The Maxus has far better driver visibility and can corner at maximum speed without the use of fantasy programming in a small but expensive box, hidden away in the engine bay.

    The Maxus was intended to fight for world sales against the Toyota Hiace. That is why it looks and drives like a Toyota Hiace. The Transit, Sprinter and Vivaro die sudden deaths once pitted against the Taliban’s favourite limousine. The Maxus is a worthy match. It is a clone with added wheelbase choices.

    Tidus72 (I assume that this is not your real name) have you ever driven a Toyota LWB High Roof Parcel van or Minibus? No, you haven’t. There is no such product available.

    My Sprinter is on 69k and my Maxus is on 150k. My Sprinter looks fine but hides skeletons in its wardrobe. My Maxus looks like a Toyota but at least it has nothing to hide.

    Oh – and my Maxus also has heated electric door mirrors. Something that you will be hard pushed to find on any other fleet van.

    People who don’t drive vans for a living hate the Maxus. I rest my case.

    • yes they did have Ford Tranny engines in, National grid refused to bulk buy them because of failing reliability, yet the ones they did have, they ended up being taken to FORD dealers to be repaired, as it was 1) easier, 2) cheaper and 3) easier for them to get a better deal next time around – you will also find that teh Mercedes vans that NG purchased – in massive amounts, were well liked by all the employee’s and most wanted to keep them after the 70,000 limit was reached – and most hated the previous gen Transit as they felt it was not as “safe” as the merc.

  4. @Neil Graham,

    I did drive the Maxus for a living (ok it was a voluntary job but still…) as well as having driven just about every other van on the market- Sprinter, Transit, Master (and it’s badge-engineered clones), and the Daily.

    Whilst the Maxus was by no means a terrible van, it lacked development- having a particularly heavy clutch and gearchange that needed to be used far more regularly than on a more flexible Daily, for instance. And fit and finish could have been better (ditto the Daily). The Maxus could best be described as an ‘honest grafter’ rather than a desirable workhorse (give me a Transit any day). Royal Mail drivers didn’t rate them, especially with their problematic locks. Definately more of a ‘builder’s van’ than it’s more urbane competition.

    And btw, the Hiace did come in LWB, with after-market high roof conversions available.

    • All fair points. Yes – the Maxus could benefit from more refinement and development which hopefully it is getting from its new Chinese makers. Regarding the Royal Mail drivers, I too found that they didn’t particularly like the Maxus. Mind you, in all fairness, the van has not yet been built that conforms to the requirements of a Royal Mail driver. Self-healing body panels are still a few years away.

      I think you sum it up best with your term: ‘builder’s van’. Once LDV got the clutch pedal action modified in 2006, the van settled into its slot as a reliable no-nonsense workhorse.

      I used to deliver prototype radiators to Daewoo in Worthing for fitting to their secret new van, eventually to be called Maxus (once sold on to LDV). Back then, those hand-built models I saw looked quite advanced in terms of styling. Not so in 2015. It now looks dated.

      But now that GM have vandalised the Vivaro’s styling in a ‘bring your child to work’ episode that went badly wrong, the Maxus doesn’t look too bad!

      It doesn’t suffer so badly from instability at high speed (LWB Sprinter) and it has a third gear that is happy to work between 20mph-40mph, making it far less hassle than most of its competitors on urban routes. In LWB High Roof form, it has one of the highest payloads (1.4t on the weighbridge) available. That’s almost half a ton more than the Merc.

      Transit? I suffer from permanent hearing loss caused by driving their 1980’s models, so ALL vans seem whisper quiet to me now…but I am guessing that The Maxus will be thousands less to buy.

      • re the clutch action- the van I drove was a 59 plate, and claimed to be the last one off the production line (although I can’t verify that).

        Agree re the Vivaro restyle- I went with a colleague to pick one up from GM in Luton around the time of the launch- it was quite a shock, however it went bloody well with the twin-turbo 1.6 (albeit unladen). Much more lively than the 125bhp Movano and it’s sisters…

        • Re: Vivaro styling

          Strange how family cars are moving from hatchbacks/saloons/estates to SUVs with chunky styling and plastic cladding, while vans are going from rubber bumper square headlights to ever more bling!

          Should be the other way round!

          Re: Royal Mail

          My new work car park is an ex-Royal Mail van car park. It has an interesting notice on starting Morris diesel vans that I’ll have to upload to the forum.

  5. I worked in the product development department at LDV and whilst the van was an aged design (overseen in the main by Daewoo) it wasn’t a bad van, it was just the fact it was underfunded during its development.
    LDV bought the van rights/tooling from Daewoo but had little/no cash to make the necessary improvements.
    Then the Yanks came in took what they could and offloaded,sorry sold us to the Russians who frankly didn’t have a clue how to manufacture or sell products in the U.K/E.U markets and in the main were busy sightseeing/shopping in London.
    They did inject a great deal of money but it was all too late. Oleg Deripaska
    Wanted a slice of the potential G.M Europe sell out, and left us to fend for ourselves.
    The government were covering their backs/arses over the expenses scandal so we didn’t get much help there either.
    In came the Chinese and much like the MG/Rover purchase, snapped up a bargain and were producing the updated version of the Maxus in less than 18 months.
    I wish we valued our industrial heritage more, we have given the Chinese so much of our know how far too cheaply.

    • I never understood why Gaz did not use the Maxus to replace the Gazelle van, an ancient reskin of even more ancient mechanicals, the mini bus version has a Russian nickname that translates as the “Container of Death” but still sells because its import competitors are heavily taxed.

      Although talking to Russian van operators its poor reliability still makes it a poor choice despite it being 50% the price of a similar Merc or Ford van.

      Yes the Russians have not got the skills to market in Western Europe, but should have been able to replicate (on a bigger scale) the Maxus tooling and track in Russia.

  6. That solid blue 2004 Maxus photo looks a nice colour… might be just how my PC monitor’s colour is set up though. I think the Maxus is a pretty good looking van – even though van’s are not my area of interest!

  7. If SAIC now oens LDV, who is to say that it won’t end up being assembled at Longbridge, in SKD state at least, again?

  8. Considering that only the Vauxhall Vivaro and its associated Renault/Nissan clones are built in the UK, if the powers that be in SAIC decide to set up a CKD facility in the UK – given they own Longbridge it would make sense – then that could – and I stress could – be an important factor factor for people. Having checked the Irish Website the Maxus has benefitted from an interior update – I like the blue dials and interior trim seems a step up from the original spec. If it’s priced right it could be a interesting contender. But only if they loose that front grill…it’s hideous.

    To be honest I feel Ford did itself no favours by closing its UK plant. I’m sure there were valid economic reasons but I do feel the quality of a Transit has taken a step backwards as a result. Also that styling… looks like a pig’s snout. Also why would you by a short-wheel base Transit when you can have a Transit Custom…..I’m not sure why Ford brought out a van that competes with itself? And as for Mercedes – I’m sorry but putting a Merc badge on a Renault Kangoo…..deary me.

    • The Renault and Nissan vans are no longer made in the UK. They’re now produced by Renault in its Sandouville factory in France. I’m not sure that country of origin is an important factor for van buyers here.

      • From what I can see, most new van buyers are fleets who don’t really care about where the van is built.

        Fleet accountants only care that a Transit costs £x on lease hire, or that there are y dealers in the immediate area offering service and warranty. They couldn’t give two hoots that it is built in Turkey and not Southhampton. Fleets still buy Fiestas and Focuses in droves and they aren’t Dagenham built.

        Eventually the leased vans trickle down into the private market, where Transit is a colloqualism for ‘Van’, the factory code doesn’t matter so long as it’s a “nice little runner”.

    • I think the Transit was styled like that as this is the first one they’re selling in the US.

      I agree about putting a Merc badge on a Renault Kangoo. Done for the same reasons as Toyota lately rebadging the Fiat/Peugeot/Citroen van as a Hiace.

  9. Regarding the Maxus – the version of the story as far as I know is that it was only ever assembled in Britain at all because Daewoo went bust. Does that mean that the British jobs would have been lost sooner, when the Maxus replaced the Pilot/Convoy?

    • The plan was always for the Maxus (project LD100) to be assembled by LDV. There was also a smaller van (project BD100), which shared 80% of components, including the side panels, with the swb Maxus, and all unique panels for it, and many of the shared panels would have been stamped by LDV. Panels unique to the larger van would have been shipped to LDV from Daewoo’s plant at Lublin in Poland.

  10. The original replacement for the LDV range was a joint venture between Renault and Leyland- Daf, they were designing a van range to replace the Master,Trafic and the 200 and 400 ranges, they were quite a long way into the project when Leyland Daf went bankrupt and Renault withdrew their designs and looked for another partner delaying the replacements for their van range . The eventual partnership with General Motors Europe was the result and production taking place at the old Suzuki/Isuzu plant at Luton. In recent blogs on the range produced at this plant we must not forget the Opel badged vans that were built alongside the Nissan,Vauxhall,and Renault vans for th Irish market etc.

  11. @Andrew..Yes a welcome return over here from a famous Brand(Pity its not badged as Leyland but at least we have them back!!) the Distributor over here in Dublin is “Harris Ltd” (They also distribute Ssang Yong Cars) They were also a Daihatsu “Hino truck” distributor..Our Postal service has just purchased a whole fleet of the V80″s nationwide aswell as the Diageo (Guinness) Group. Have to say They look very smart and excellent value for the money( starting at around £16k) They have a different badge Logo than the previous “Maxus” Model and they are indeed owned by Shanghai Auto (Their badge is on the back of the new vans)The”Lump”s the Fiat sourced 2.5L VM Motori unit.

  12. These seem to be on sale in the UK now, a dealer of used vans near me is selling brand new V80’s and G10’s via its own website and also on ebay. Yet there appears to be no official UK website.

  13. Saw one yesterday.

    Interestingly they are badged as:
    (left door) – (right door)
    SAIC MOTOR (maxus logo) – LDV V80

    Sorry for the crap photo, was trying to take a quick pic from a busy footpath


  14. a bit late to this, but LDV have made a major dealer investment into NZ, quite a few vans in bigger fleets now.

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