Iveco’s “Country Girl” – What Prospects for an Old Lady (or Landie) in a Spanish Frock?

By Andy Bannister

09.25.2008

Fiat’s heavy commercial vehicle division, Iveco, has been busy lately previewing its new Campagnola 4X4, a competitor to the Land Rover Defender and Jeep Wrangler, which is about to go on sale in mainland Europe.

Campagnola – Italian for country girl – is a historic Fiat name first used on a competitor for the Willys-Jeep back in 1951, and now unexpectedly revived.

The new model’s closeness to Land Rover’s product is particularly pronounced, which is hardly surprising: the vehicle is derived from the same roots as the iconic British product, thanks to a complicated link involving Spain.

For many years Santana manufactured British Land Rovers there under licence, allowing the utility vehicle access to the then-closed Spanish market, where it became a staple product. When Land Rover and Santana parted company in the 1980s, the Spaniards continued production of the old design, relaunching it in the late 1990s.

Known as the Santana PS-10, or Anibal on some markets, it has been a very modest success. The vehicle’s tough but very unsophisticated underpinnings – it retains old fashioned leaf-spring suspension long since abandoned by its British cousin – appeal to those needing extreme off-road capability at a knock-down price, but it is a nightmare on the highway.

Land Rover dealers in recent years hated the Santana, which looked so much like its own pricier product. They are unlikely to harbour any nicer sentiments about the new version, which now has the added attraction of a big name – Iveco being well known for commercial vehicles in Europe.

The Campagnola is based on the original short-wheelbase Land Rover, and complements a long-wheelbase version, the Massif, launched earlier this year.

The main difference from the old Santana versions are a facelift courtesy of Giugiaro and a more impressive-looking interior with some incongruous premium touches like leather seats. The Campagnola is powered by a strong 3.0-litre 176hp turbodiesel from Iveco’s Daily delivery van.

Both the Ivecos are built at Santana’s Spanish plant, which the Italian giant is currently considering whether or not to acquire. Santana, which is owned by the regional government of Spain’s Andalucia province, is struggling to survive alone and desperately needs investment.

The revival of the Campagnola name is an interesting one. The “country girl” was a slightly obscure member of the Fiat family for more than three decades, but it never got much international exposure, so Iveco cannot trade heavily on positive associations with the name.

The first generation model looked remarkably like a remake of the wartime Jeep and lasted from 1951 to 1973.

Later a larger second generation version was introduced – itself resembling a more modern Land Rover. It was made from 1974 to 1987, in quite small numbers annually, by coachbuilder Pininfarina. One version gained fame for a while as Papal transport in Rome’s St Peter’s Square.

It did reasonably well in Italy but was little known in the rest of the world, which was presumably why Fiat decided it wasn‘t worth the bother of building its own 4X4 any longer. Ironically, since then Italy has gone on to become one of the world’s top export destinations for Land Rover’s Defender, where it is a common sight as a police, forestry and military vehicle.

The latest Campagnola and Massif look like useful and inexpensive additions to Iveco’s line-up, even though relying on technology dating back effectively 60 years is nothing to shout about.

The models may well notch up a few more sales than Santana achieved due to the higher profile of the Italian badge and a larger dealer network, although large production volumes are constrained by limitations at the Spanish factory. In truth, the new model looks like an experimental toe in the water for a maker trying to broaden its portfolio.

For Land Rover, already dealing with a worldwide slump in 4X4 sales, competition from Iveco is hardly welcome news, especially as Defender sales have been on the up since a minor facelift in 2007, although the model itself is realistically nearing the end of its life.

In the future, both Land Rover’s new owner, Tata, and Iveco will need to decide whether to invest in a truly new 4X4 utility vehicle.

COPYRIGHT Autosavant – All Rights Reserved

Author: Andy Bannister

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2 Comments

  1. If the interior is updated but it’s still on leaf springs, that doesn’t bode well for future buyers. How expensive can it be to get a better suspension, particularly since the current one is so primitive? It’s not a very high bar to surpass, so we can’t be talking about a lot of expense here.

  2. I’ve actually been looking forward to this particular vehicle and its LWB sister. I am very strongly hoping that Iveco add these two vehicles to their Oz line-up. They’d slot in well under the Daily range.

    The leaf springs aren’t the issue you might think they are. Plenty of the current crop of SUVs run rear leaf springs and these are typically still the flat crowned variety left over from the days of the horse cart. These Iveco’s run parabolic leaf springs that are far more progressive than you might imagine and therefore more comfortable than old school leaves. They are also much tougher, have a greater load capacity and are easier to repair than the coils springs.

    The driveline itself is now almost totally derived from the Iveco Daily rather than the Land Rover of old so you have much more modern engineering than you might imagine.

    And with the move to end the reign of the Defender as a defence tool by many of the world’s armies plus Land Rovers own decision to make the Defender a ‘lifestyle’ option rather than a commercial vehicle mean that this vehicle has a niche.

    And it’s a growing niche again – the working 4×4 – VW’s Robust is another new entry. Others include Mahindra’s PikUp and Ssangyong’s Musso. Plus the usual suspects that already play here like Toyota’s LandCruiser 70 and Hilux plus the Nissan’s Patrol & Navara and a number of others.

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