Fleet News

Thinking CAP

Hardworking Martin Ward scours the globe for the week’s insider fleet intelligence.

Monday

Went over the hill to a Peugeot commercial vehicle seminar near Manchester, where Steve Harris, director – fleet and leasing, showed us round the new Boxer and forthcoming Expert, which has grown in size and versatility and will be available as standard or long wheelbase, standard roof and high-roof.The all-new Expert is expected in February.
Peugeot has been building vans since 1898, and since then more than five million have been sold. It is good to see that a manufacturer is taking the light commercial market seriously by having these events for the fleet and leasing industry. They expect to see more than 100 fleet people during their road shows.
Steve Lambert, Peugeot’s product manager, told the audience that the new Partner is due in July 2008 and an all-new small van, codenamed MCV, is due around the same time. The ever-popular 206 van replacement, the 207 van, is due next May.

Tuesday

Down to Hams Hall, just off the M42 near Coventry, to BMW’s four-cylinder petrol engine plant for a tour. Set in 52 acres, this all-new facility was built with the intention of supplying Rover with engines for new cars they had planned, but with the separation of BMW and Rover Group these plans went sadly wrong. However, plan B is now successfully in place and Hams Hall will build 215,000 engines during 2006. Next year that figure will rise to 300,000.
One engine is finished every 39 seconds, yet there are only 925 employees. The four different engines built there are now being fitted into the new MINI, go over to the BMW factory in North America for the 2.0-litre Z4, and down to South Africa to go into 3-series models.
BMW is also now assembling engines for PSA Group that will go into cars such as the Peugeot 207.
There’s hardly any noise, and you don’t see much of the production as everything goes on in enclosed machines. The place is exceptionally clean. You could eat your lunch off the floor. They wouldn’t let you however – as it would get it dirty! Great British engineering at its best.

Wednesday

What’s in a name? I flew to Belgium with SN-Brussels Airlines, rebranded a few years ago from Sabena, which was dated and did not have a very good reputation with customers.
A few fleet people were jetting off to look at a major new fleet car coming next June. I wish I could say what it is but I’m not allowed to, but it will undoubtedly take the fleet industry by storm as it is just so much better than the current model.
On the name theme, I’ve also read about Jaguar’s decision to change the name of S-type to XF, which is a well-judged choice.
Other manufacturers who have been brave to bin a tired old name include Toyota with Carina to Avensis, and Corolla to Auris, and Ford from Escort to Focus. A simple name change, allied to a quality car, can really invigorate a brand.
The excellent car we went to see in Belgium, like the airline, would also have benefited from a name change, but will be sticking with the old one. Shame, because it’s such a leap forward, it should have got a change. Any idea what it is? Answers on a postcard.

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