Fleet News

Van focus: Citroen UK

LOWER prices, higher specification and a revamped Dispatch light panel van are all part of the French manufacturer's new strategy to raise sales in 2004.

Detailed discussions with customers prompted the most aggressive commercial vehicle marketing campaign yet mounted by Citroen UK.

For a double-whammy incentive programme – featuring deep discounting and a new range of extra-value special-edition vans – has been based on feedback from fleet operators and many of the people who drive their vehicles. Answers to questions posed in a survey led to new commercial vehicle operations manager Robert Handyside leading the push for the latest 'van wars' campaign.

He said: 'While our research found that our existing range won high ratings with most drivers and operators, it was obvious there was room for further improvements – and that making them could reap handsome dividends.

'Tighter health and safety regulations mean operators have now become very interested in any features that provide their drivers with better levels of protection. That's the main reason behind the launch of Enterprise, our new special-edition range packaging that provides each model with anti-lock braking and a driver's airbag at little or no extra cost.

'And when the results made us realise how highly drivers rate in-car entertainment, we decided to include radio-CD units.'

Speaking at the launch of the 2004 model range, Handyside made it clear that he is aiming for higher sales despite increased competition.

He added: 'Our success owes everything to products, offers and marketing that has an impact. But we need to continue being innovative and coming up with value-for-money propositions to help boost our appeal still further.

'Ten years ago, we sold just 3,349 units to take a 2.31% share of the up to 3.5-tonne gvw market and last year we had 7.99% of a market that featured an unprecedented level of new model introductions, low interest rates and economic growth that resulted in a total of 310,000 registrations.

'The Berlingo recorded its best-ever showroom performance, Relay sales rose at a rapid rate and the Xsara Enterprise has opened the door on an entirely new sector. But we need new product and important marketing initiatives to make sure we remain a major player in the sector.'

Handyside claimed Citroen had been at the forefront of the trend for better-equipped commercial vehicles and recognised that van drivers were now being given a greater say in the choice of vehicles they operate.

He said: 'There's no doubt that the user-chooser side of the fleet business is now coming to vans.

'We want these drivers to choose Citroen – and that's the reason we carried out the research project that led us to launch Enterprise. We did well last year, but we have a lot of work to do to maintain our position and I aim to keep providing vehicles that provide value and high specification levels.'

Lead-in Enterprise model is the Berlingo 600D, which matches the standard LX at £7,995 (ex-VAT and delivery) but includes ABS and a CD player. Next up is the 600 TD HDi, again priced to match the LX at £8,695. At £9,495, the Xsara is £500 less than the standard model as well as getting upgraded in-car entertainment.

Citroen is charging £180 more for the Enterprise version of its new Dispatch 815 1.9 D, but the £9,995 vehicle – along with the 900 2.0 HDi version which costs £11,595 – gets ABS and remote central door locking.

Biggest benefits of the Enterprise package come on the four Relay models. Priced from £11,295 for the 1100 TD 2.0 HDi swb version to £17,402 for the 1800 TD 2.8 HDi lwb, hi-roof model, all cost £180 more than standard but have £770 worth of additional equipment.

Revisions give Dispatch a host of improvements

Changes to the new-look Dispatch are claimed to have turned Citroen's mid-range model into Britain's best-protected delivery vehicle. Handyside said: 'Making the front bumper so that it rises well up over the wings and fitting new mouldings on the sides and rear make this a more robust and practical proposition for the van user.

'The changes add up to rather more than a cosmetic makeover – I'd say these measures position Dispatch as the vehicle that's best protected against the day-to-day knocks and bumps that end up costing dearly in repairs and time off the road.'

The final key commercial model to be revised in the last 18 months, the Dispatch – which is also rebadged as Peugeot Expert and Fiat Scudo – has power steering, a coded engine immobiliser, twin sliding side doors and height adjustment for the steering wheel and driver's seat. A driver's airbag is standard and larger ventilated discs from the C8 MPV model are claimed to have improved braking performance.

Ready to Run programme aims to give fleets better access to specialised vehicles

A NEW service has been set up to give fleet operators a better deal in the specialist vehicle sector.

The result of a new partnership with bodywork converters, the 'Ready to Run' programme will provide the most comprehensive and competitively-priced service yet offered in the UK by a light commercial vehicle manufacturer, claims Citroen.

Commercial vehicle operations manager Robert Handyside said: 'Ready to Run offers an unmatched combination of choice, high quality and exceptional value for money – I'm confident it will take our vehicles into a wide variety of new applications.'

Announcing the move as part of plans to expand the French company's role as a commercial vehicle supplier, Handyside launched a new version of the 3.5-tonne gvw Relay 1800 from Ingimex, the Telford-based dropside body manufacturer.

He said: 'At an incredible price of £10,995 ex-VAT and delivery, we now have access to one of the largest specialist sectors of the light commercial market and expect considerable uptake.

'And with our new Citroen Somers Refrigeration range, we're offering a choice of 16 temperature-controlled panel vans. I believe no other manufacturer is able to match us on quality and price.'

Also brought into the Ready to Run operation is the Relay Advanced Minibus range, which has been expanded and subject to price reductions. Handyside claims a new wheelchair-accessible 1800 model priced from £22,495 would provide a 'significantly cheaper solution' for local authorities, schools, the voluntary sector and care home operators.

Introduced last year at £12,995, the Relay Tipmaster tipper package now costs £1,000 less and is available with more options for greater versatility. Another reduction – £500 – brings the price of the Relay 2.2 HDi-powered car transporter to £14,995.

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