Wilfried Porth, worldwide head, Mercedes-Benz vans
What are you doing to reduce the impact of your vans on the environment?
Most of our vehicles are sold with highly-efficient diesel engines and particulate filters, but at Hanover we’ve gone one stage further. We’ve introduced the BlueEfficiency Vito, with an ECO-Start system that automatically switches off the engine when the driver is stationary in traffic, significantly improving fuel economy and reducing exhaust emissions. It’s fitted with a six-speed gearbox and a package of aerodynamic aids, again for greater fuel efficiency. We’ve developed different versions; one designed specifically for in-town delivery work, one designed for mid-range work and one designed for long-range runs. The aim is to give the customer exactly what he needs for his business.
What else are you up to?
We’ve come up with natural gas vehicles and hybrids too.
How much will environmentally-friendly technology add to the cost of a van?
A hybrid Vito might cost up to an additional €10,000 (£8,000) depending on the exact specifications. But something like ECO-Start typically costs no more than around €200 (£160).
We’ve seen major increases in the cost of steel, aluminium, plastic and virtually everything else that goes into a van. Are you putting up your retail prices as a consequence?
These increases are affecting all manufacturers of course, and up until now the industry has not passed them on to the consumer to any great extent. At Mercedes we’ve absorbed them and offset their impact on us by improving production efficiency. If there are further increases I cannot rule out retail price rises, but we won’t be on our own. The whole industry will be in the same boat.
Lengthening lead times were a problem for Mercedes-Benz last year, as they were for a number of other manufacturers. I gather the situation has eased since, so if a customer asks a dealership to order a van from the factory today on his behalf, how long before he can take delivery?
There is no single answer. It varies from country to country, but I would say from four to eight weeks depending on the model concerned.
It’s not that long since you launched the new Sprinter. Do you plan to make any changes to Vito in the foreseeable future?
It will receive a facelift next year.
Will you be taking the opportunity to slot a medium roof model in between the standard roof and the high roof ?
No. We don’t think the investment that would be necessary to put it into production would be covered by the demand.