By the end of the year Vauxhall expects to have held a 9.7% share of the LCV market, with the new Corsavan, Combo, Astravan, Brava pick-up and Arena - the latter, like the Movano, a rebadged Renault.
Following the introduction of the Movano and revitalisation of its van network - those going the heavy van route will also have to provide customer loan vehicles and invest in new specialist workshop equipment and tools and prominent Vauxhall Van corporate signage - Vauxhall plans that share to have grown to 13.3%, about 28,850 units, by the end of 1999.
Movano, of which 4,000 examples will be sold next year in Britain, marks the start of a six-year programme designed to give Vauxhall at least 18% of the LCV market. The next major step will be another joint venture project with Renault - an Arena/Trafic 2.5-2.8-tonne replacement due in 2001 and to be built at the IBC production line in Luton. The companies are 'in discussion' about the entire engine portfolio, although Vauxhall refused to comment on whether use of the acclaimed 2.2-litre ECOTEC direct injection turbodiesel featured in the new Frontera 4x4 was included in the discussion.
At the Movano's European press launch in France last week, Vauxhall Vans marketing manager Darren Payne was asked why a fleet operator should buy a Movano instead of a Renault Master - the same vehicle, with similar options, but the former wearing a Vauxhall badge and V-grille, new seat material, GM instruments, and a different stereo, and likely to be priced similarly.
Payne said Vauxhall's trump card was a new customer service package, and added that Master was not its only potential rival. 'Our increased commitment in the light commercial vehicle area is not limited to the introduction of new products and a revitalised franchise. Just introducing a new product is not enough,' he said. 'The third central part of our strategy is a customer service package which will be backed by all the Vauxhall Van dealers in the UK and by 650 Opel dealers throughout Europe.'
The package allows Movano owners to bring their van to any Vauxhall Van dealer without an appointment 'for immediate attention'. They will also have the use of a dedicated service phone line to ask technical questions without having to visit a dealer. Naturally, says Vauxhall, pricing will be 'competitive', but the company won't announce the structure before mid-December. The cheapest Master, for instance, is a short wheelbase low-roof 2.5-litre diesel van at £12,900, excluding VAT, the most expensive standard Master being the LWB high-roof 2.8 turbodiesel van at £19,600. Ford Transit 2.5D prices start at £11,900.
A 12-month, extendible, warranty will be offered (the company says it would react if other manufacturers introduced longer, standard warranties), along with a three-year Vauxhall Assistance breakdown and recovery package. Major service intervals are at 15,000 miles.
The 2.8-3.5 tonne sector has the best growth in LCVs, and industry experts predict continued growth across Europe - where the Master is the van of the year.
The partnership deal in effect gives Renault additional volume through its Movano plant at the possible expense of loss of sales in Britain (a spokesman for the French manufacturer, however, said the companies had very different sales focuses and Renault was 'not unduly worried by the Movano').
What Vauxhall gets is a successful, tried and trusted product to help it safely on to the first rung of the LCV comeback ladder. As with Master, Movano operators will have the option of 80bhp 2.5-litre and 115bhp 2.8-litre diesel engines, the latter a turbo, with three wheelbases and three roof heights over eight basic van versions, three chassis cabs and seven conversions, among them a dropside, tipper, box body and a Luton. A network of approved key converters is to be announced.
We've test-driven several versions of the Master and rate it one of the best in the 2.8-3.5-tonne bracket. Last week we drove a selection of 2.5 and 2.8-litre UK-specification, right-hand-drive Movano vans in and around Paris and can report that the change of badging, grille, fabrics and radio has done nothing to detract from the overall Renault-built package of drivability, reliability and versatility.
Pricing aside, Vauxhall expects fleet operators to notice the difference at service level, where the company has built a strong reputation in cars and in lighter vans. The Movano may be a product of convenience, but it is one which sets particularly high standards on which Vauxhall can rebuild a UK van base - and perhaps, ultimately, a new range of UK-built vans.