Fleet News

Focus: Citroen turns up the heat in a boiling hot van market

The manufacturer is turning the heat up further on an already boiling light commercial vehicle market with a range of special cut-price offers, new Berlingo models and an enhancement of the Ready To Run conversion programme.

Citroen at present sits at number three in the van sales table behind Ford and Vauxhall and has made no secret of its intention of catching up with the Luton vanmaker. These new moves are designed to help it towards its ultimate goal.

This month, 200 Citroen dealers have been taking part in a special van week, where cashback deals meant buyers could save up to £3,250 on the Relay panel van, £2,000 on the new Dispatch light panel van, £1,800 on Berlingo car-derived van, £2,000 on the Xsara Enterprise and £1,700 on the C15 Champ. The offer ends on July 31.

Meanwhile, Citroen unveiled a new Berlingo model featuring a factory-fitted petrol/LPG engine and another prototype with enhanced ‘go-anywhere’ two-wheel drive capability.

The LPG model is based on the 600i LX 1.4-litre petrol model already available and will attract the maximum PowerShift grant. It will also be exempt from the London congestion charge.

The engine offers 75bhp and will cost £10,495 ex-VAT before the PowerShift grant. Launch date is August.

The standard petrol tank holds 60 litres and the gas tank, mounted under the load floor, holds 36 litres, enough for a run of 250 miles. Standard specification includes remote central locking, radio/cassette player, rubber load area floor mat, driver’s airbag and height-adjustable steering column.

Warranty is either two years/ unlimited mileage or three years/100,000 miles.

At the launch of the van, Citroen commercial vehicle operations manager Robert Handyside commented: ‘We expect this new dual-fuel van to be a popular choice with local authorities and many other operators as it has the ability to run on lower-cost LPG with no compromise in driveability or load-carrying capacity. Also, very importantly, it offers customers the added peace of mind that comes from a factory-built vehicle covered by a full vehicle manufacturer’s warranty.’

The enhanced 2wd Berlingo is currently undergoing tests before a decision is made as to whether it should be introduced to the UK and so far, Handyside said reaction had been good.

He said: ‘Citroen is closely monitoring customer reaction. So far, those who have evaluated this van have been highly impressed. Continued positive customer reaction will mean this vehicle could join our CV product.’

The new van is targeted at public utilities, agriculture, forestry workers and other sectors where there may be an occasional need for off-road work.

Although the van is still only two-wheel drive, it features higher ground clearance by 40mm and improved traction, thanks to its limited slip differential with torque transfer capability between the two front driving wheels. It also features heavy-duty suspension and larger 15-inch wheels clad in Michelin 185/65 mud and snow tyres.

There is a metal skid plate over the sump and two large longitudinal metal plates to protect underbody components such as brake and fuel lines. The van is powered by Citroen’s acclaimed 2.0 HDi 90bhp common rail diesel engine and will have a 600kg payload.

Chill wind blows good for Somers Refrigeration

CITROEN launched its Ready to Run scheme at the CV Show in March in a bid to capitalise on the burgeoning specialist commercial vehicle market. It recruited some of the top body conversion specialists in the country and now offers a range of tippers, dropsides, car transporters and refrigerated vehicles ‘off the shelf’.

The move has not only given Citroen a significant lead in the specialist market but has also proved a boost for those converters which have been chosen as partners.

Refrigerated vans are converted by Somers, of Long Stratton in Norfolk, and in a bid to cope with the extra work involved, the firm has just completed a major investment programme.

Some £500,000 has been spent on an additional 400 square metres of factory space and a new seven-bay vehicle fitting shop. Also, staffing has increased to 24 and more people are at present being recruited.

Some 16 different chilled and refrigerated models are offered for Berlingo, Dispatch and Relay at the moment, but two more have now joined the range, a Relay 1100 chiller van at £12,995 ex-VAT and a freezer model from £12,995 ex-VAT.

All the models are built to the internationally-recognised ATP standard.

Also new is a unique side sliding door option for the Relay hi-roof, which means pallets can be loaded straight into the side of the van.

Until now, side doors were not possible as they would have to be too thick to be shut properly.

But Somers has developed a thinner door thanks to the use of a new vacuum insulation panel, or VIP for short. VIP was originally developed for aerospace applications but Somers found that by packing the thin strips inside its normal panels, the amount of insulation could be made smaller.

A 25mm new panel containing VIP has the same insulation properties as an old 125mm panel.

This door comes as a £750 ex-VAT option.

Stuart Shreeve, Somers Refrigeration’s managing director, said: ‘Quality counts in the temperature-controlled sector. Operators are now even more aware of the benefits of competitively-priced, high-quality conversions, which is reflected in the quantity of business we are now achieving through the Citroen Ready to Run programme. Our new premises will mean that we will be able to combine industry-leading quality with greater production efficiency.’

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