Ford vows to dominate every sector in marketFORD has dominated the heavy panel van market with Transit for 39 years – and now in 2004 it has vowed to dominate all the other light commercial vehicle sectors as well.Speaking on the eve of the CV Show, Ford director of commercial vehicles Gary Whittam said: 'We are looking at a flat year with no growth for the heavy sector, but the battleground will be in the light vehicle market. Transit Connect has proved a real star and is now leading its sector. The new Fiesta van is also leading its sector in the second month of the year and we have more pick-ups coming along this year to make Ford Ranger a leader in that sector. We have the number one shirt with Transit and want it in every sector.'Ford announced several moves aimed at improving Transit's appeal to fleets, including two new diesel engines, a 135bhp 2.4-litre TDCi diesel and a 2.4-litre 115bhp TDdi unit, with a new six-speed gearbox and a payload increase.The 135bhp engine is a second generation common rail diesel unit offering a hefty 276lb-ft of torque and is the most powerful engine yet offered in Transit. It will feature the six-speed gearbox as standard and will be priced at £1,350 more than the existing 89bhp model.The new 115bhp unit is a non-common rail diesel with 210lb-ft of torque, the same as the 125bhp engine it replaces. This will be priced at £600 more than the base model.Speaking about the new engines, Whittam said: 'The 135bhp unit delivers outstanding drivability under all payload and towing conditions, while providing significant improvements in fuel economy at high speeds. The 115bhp engine means for those operating 3.5-tonne vans, they can get extra torque for any payload, plus the benefit of higher residual values.'The engines also offer lower noise, vibration and harshness by the use of new engine hydro-mounts, which use hydraulic fluid to separate engine vibration from the body. The mounts are 'tuneable'.Service intervals are 15,000 miles or one year and under normal driving conditions, no additional oil should be required between services. Meanwhile, most Transit models have been given a payload boost from March 1. Transit 260 swb increases from 843kg to 988kg, Transit 280 swb rises from 1,028kg to 1,188kg, 300 swb rises from 1,268kg to 1,388kg and 330 swb rises from 1,511kg to 1,601kg.
Meanwhile, Ford also announced improvements to its dealer network. An elite network of 115 sales and 95 service locations is being created, known as Transit Specialist Dealers (TSD). Ford says customers will be assured of receiving 'the levels of dedicated commercial vehicle attention they require'.Each TSD will have staff and technicians who are dedicated to commercial vehicles, a courtesy Transit available, a minimum of three demonstrator vehicles and a minimum of five vehicles on display.
There will also be a minimum of 70 hours a week opening, 24-hour a day emergency support and a minimum four-bay repair capacity.Iveco displays its mighty moversIVECO showed off its might in the 3.5-tonne gvw sector with a range of Daily models, featuring load volumes of between seven cubic metres and 17.2 cubic metres. The Daily now features central locking as standard across the range. Joining the vans was a new tipper bodied crewcab, available under the Driveaway Options programme, which allows buyers to select approved options off the shelf.Fiat refreshes its light van offeringsFIAT used the show to introduce its revised Scudo light panel van and three new versions of the Doblo Cargo.The Scudo has a new grille and bumpers, black side protection strips, new steering wheel and seats and better noise protection.
Meanwhile, the Doblo Cargo gets a new 1.3-litre Multijet 16-valve diesel powerplant, which will be available this summer.
The new engine is the smallest and most advanced second generation common rail unit and offers 70bhp at 4,000rpm and 133lb-ft of torque at 1,750rpm.Meanwhile, the 'old' 1.9 JTD engine gets a power boost from 100bhp to 105bhp at 4,000 rpm, making it the most powerful performer in the sector.Mercedes-Benz plans further rise in salesMERCEDES-Benz is big and it is going to get bigger – that was the message at the show from Ian Jones, managing director of commercial vehicles, as the German manufacturer took its biggest ever floor space at the NEC.
Jones said parent company DaimlerChrysler was the largest seller of commercial vehicles in the world and last year made a profit of £5 billion.
And with Daimler Chrysler taking a 65% controlling stake in Mitsubishi, there was plenty of new product to show off.Jones said: 'The UK is the second largest CV market in Europe and has proved a good investment for us. We sold 35,000 commercial vehicles here last year and our order books are 60% up year on year – the future is looking very rosy.'Mercedes is spending £60 million improving its dealer network – 19 dealer sites have been refurbished and by the end of 2006, there will be 60 specialist van centres across the UK. Jones said: 'No other network is considering such a substantial programme.'Van sales and marketing director Peter Lambert added: 'The scene is set for another buoyant year and we are forecasting another record year ahead both for us and the van market as a whole.'
He pointed out that while Mercedes vans carried a price premium, they were not more expensive to run when wholelife costs were considered. Lambert said: 'There is a price premium but our wholelife costs are class-leading thanks to our superior build quality and durability.'Our secondhand vans are making 10% above the prices predicted in the industry guides.'
Taking centre stage in the van section of the Mercedes stand was the new Vito, which was launched in November last year. Whereas the old Vito was a 'one size fits all' van, the new model boasts three lengths, two roof heights and a 2.2-litre common rail diesel powerplant offering 88bhp, 109bhp or 150bhp. The high roof version goes on sale in April.
Load volumes range from 4.65 cubic metres to 6.49 cubic metres and payloads are from 855kg to 1,025kg. Standard equipment includes a six-speed gearbox, CD player, ABS brakes, ESP traction control, remote central locking and driver's airbag.The larger Sprinter was also making its presence felt on the stand, with four vehicles on display, including a factory-fit dropside model, minibus and refrigerated vehicle with a body by Kerstner. Updates for the 2004 Sprinter include standard ABS brakes, acceleration skid control and the ESP traction control – a first in the large panel van sector. The stand also boasted five Mitsubishi Canter trucks, including crewcab and tipper versions. Mercedes-Benz took over marketing the Canter two years ago and since then, growth has reached 40% each year.