Ford vows to dominate every sector in market
FORD 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 movers
IVECO 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 offerings
FIAT 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 sales
MERCEDES-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.
Fair wear and tear guide aims to end wrangles over damage
A NEW publication launched at the show by the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA) and Manheim Auctions should help end the thorny problem of end-of-contract vehicle damage.
The condition of vehicles at the end of their rental or lease contracts – and more importantly who should pay to repair any damage – is one of the major problems faced by leasing and rental firms and it is a subject on which Manheim Auctions has a vast array of knowledge.
The two teamed up to produce the handy booklet which includes photographs of what damage is acceptable after a contract and what is not.
Launching the booklet, BVRLA director general John Lewis said: 'Our members operate 2.3 million vehicles and this booklet is designed to help them have clear guidelines about the condition of vehicles at the end of their contracts.'
Alex Wright, sales director, commercial vehicles at Manheim Auctions, who helped compile the guide, said: 'We had five aims in compiling this booklet – we wanted it to be clear and concise with no grey areas, simple and straightforward, easily implemented, fair to rental companies and fair to the users. Now everyone knows where they stand.'
Chris Sharp, chairman of the BVRLA's commercial vehicle committee, added: 'The condition of a vehicle at the end of its contract is the most contentious issue we have to deal with. Often we get into a debate about what is fair wear and tear and this booklet clarifies it, so that customers will know what is required of them at the start of the contract.'
The booklet contains sections on customers' responsibilities, best practice, the dispute handling process, defining wear and tear and appraisal tips for drivers.
Photographs show examples of damage – both fair and unfair – to exterior body, roofs, grilles, bumpers, load areas, cabs, dashboards, headlinings, floor coverings and seats.
Citroen makes it big
BRITAIN'S strongest man, Richard Gosling, broke the world record for van lifting on the first day of the show, as he hoisted a Citroen Dispatch off the ground.
The stunt was arranged to show the strength of the French manufacturer's van range and also to show off the new Dispatch, which has recently been given a fresh face. In addition to a new grille and bigger headlights, the new Dispatch features as standard a CD player, driver's airbag, new seats and extra rubbing strips on the outside.
Citroen also launched a range of vans labelled Enterprise, which increase specification for a small extra cost.
The manufacturer also tempted visitors with its new Ready To Run programme, which aims to provide a one-stop shop for a range of conversions, working in association with a number of specialist converters.
Vauxhall on a roll with huge deal
FRESH from announcing a 900-vehicle deal with BSkyB, Vauxhall showed off its entire range at the show.
New Movano, which was launched at the back end of last year, features ABS brakes and driver's airbag as standard, chunky new styling and a range of new engines including a 3.0-litre common rail diesel unit.
Combo van has extended its fleet appeal with a crew van which adds a row of rear seats which can be folded up and down.
The Vivaro light panel van is now available in short wheelbase low roof and long wheelbase high roof format and the evergreen Astravan is still selling well, despite its advancing years. Both Astravan and Vivaro are also available in stylish Sportive formats.
Nissan rally special is a real eye-catcher
FOLLOWING its link-up with Renault, Nissan now has one of the widest range of vans of many manufacturer – and all were on display at the show.
While many visitors looked at the re-engineered Cabstar and restructured Primastar range, all eyes ended up at the Navara Rally Raid, modelled on Colin McRae's Dakar Rally Pickup, which was also featured on the stand.
TLS launches a new Advantage
TLS Vehicle Rental showed off its brand new corporate identity at the show and the company's chief executive officer Andrew Way was on the stand to meet existing and potential customers.
One of the new services on offer for fleets is 'TLS Advantage', which offers a flexible alternative to contract hire or outright purchase.
The scheme takes care of maintenance, taxation and licensing while offering the flexibility of pay-as-you-go van hire.
Way said: 'Customer needs within the growing commercial vehicle industry are changing and we need to be at the forefront of that change through offering innovative solutions.'
Out of the shadows - new shape of LDV
British vehicle manufacturer LDV finally revealed the shape of its future at the CV Show after a year of speculation.
Unfortunately, the shape was the only thing that visitors were able to see. The two models, a short wheelbase low roof and long wheelbase high roof panel van, were firmly enclosed behind murky plastic and no details of engines or specification were available.
LDV has been suffering a fall in sales for some time now as its Pilot and Convoy vans show their age against the opposition.
But the firm has benefited from a combination of luck and hard-headed business sense. LDV was developing a new model with Korean manufacturer Daewoo when the Asian company foundered and was taken over by General Motors. GM was not interested in the van and handed the rights to LDV.
Then this year, after some tough negotiations in Poland and Korea, LDV bought all the tooling needed to make the new vehicle and its future prospects suddenly looked rosier. Unveiling the new model at the show, LDV chief executive Allen Amey said: 'Last year at the show we revealed the design concept of this new van and now we have secured the rights to it from Daewoo, bought the tooling worth £125 million and shipped it back to Birmingham and have secured the funding which will shape the development of LDV over the next 10 years.
'Our new range of LDVs will be launched in the second half of the year and within two years will completely replace the Pilot and Convoy. We eventually plan to sell between 40,000 and 50,000 vehicles worldwide and we believe our new van is best in class in all the areas it should be.'
Meanwhile there were still plenty of Pilot and Convoy models to see on the LDV stand. These included a Convoy 16-seater minibus, an XLWB crew-cab dropside, a dual purpose Pilot with cafe and workshop and an XLWB security van.
Renault puts emphasis on driver health
RENAULT used the charms of Olympic swimmer Sharron Davies in a nurse's outfit to lure visitors to its stand – and the ploy worked wonders.
But there was a serious message behind the ruse. Renault is launching a series of roadshows across the country this spring and summer, in which Davies and ex-England captain Stuart Pearce will be offering health checks for van drivers.
Renault decided to carry out the checks after discovering that van drivers work an average of 49 hours a week, but 46% of males never visit an optician, 48% suffer from back problems, 73% do not eat the recommended five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, 40% are doing nothing to address their perceptions of health, 72% eat at least one chocolate bar a day and half of drivers do not take a lunch break.
The results of the health checks will form a major study of Britain's van drivers to be published later in the year.
The roadshows are at Southend on May 1, Brent Cross on May 16, Manchester on May 29, Belfast on June 5, Birmingham on July 3, Bristol on July 10, Glasgow on July 24, Southampton on September 11 and Sheffield on September 18.
Manheim improves auction services
MANHEIM Auctions used the CV Show to launch a new online valuation service for sellers and buyers of vans.
Called LCV Market Prices, the new system can generate composite averages and show specific prices for individual vans. The information provided can be sorted by model, spec, age, mileage, engine size and fuel type and will help when setting reserves.
Manheim also announced it was extending its vehicle inspection technology to cover vans. Inspectors use a hand-held unit to assess the vehicle, keying in notes of any damage present, so that customers can access a full report via the internet, together with an estimate of how much it will cost to repair the damage.
New-look Caddy takes centre stage
THE new Caddy took pride of place on the Volkswagen stand at the show.
With a payload of 750kg, the next-generation Caddy is larger than the current van, which is based on the Polo supermini platform. It reaches UK showrooms in May.
Bigger in almost every respect than the current van, Volkswagen's new rival to the Ford Transit Connect, Vauxhall Combo, Citroen Berlingo and Renault Kangoo is expected to be priced from around £9,000. For the UK market, the 3.2-metre load volume van will feature twin rear doors.
A large side sliding door will be fitted as standard, and a second sliding door will be optional.
Volkswagen hopes to sell around 5,000 units in a full year, 80% of them powered by Volkswagen's latest 2.0-litre, 69bhp SDI diesel engine, but operators seeking higher performance levels will be able to call on a 103bhp version of the group's 1.9-litre turbodiesel motor.
All versions for Britain are expected to have ABS brakes and a driver's airbag. Standard specification should also include a height-adjustable driver's seat, rake-and-reach adjustable steering, remote control central locking and a CD sound system.
Thales telematics system upgraded
THALES Telematics launched a new version of Thalestrak.com, its web-based fleet management system, at the show. The online system has been upgraded to offer improved functionality and ease-of-use.
As well as providing a quicker and more responsive application, the new Thalestrak.com includes a range of new functions such as a postcode-supported location finder, user-defined points of interest and historical journey replays.
Fleet operators can benefit from an enhanced reporting solution that offers 20 additional management reports including fleet overview, user input and congestion charging breakdown.