Mercedes adds power and petrol to Citan range

Date: Monday, December 02, 2013   |   Author: James Dallas





After initial teething problems, Mercedes is now adding to the Citan line-up in order to make its mark in the light van sector. James Dallas reports





Mercedes-Benz has extended and completed its Citan light van range with the introduction of two new engines and the addition of an extra model variant.

The 110hp 111CDi becomes the most powerful diesel model in the line-up and is expected to account for about 20% of Citan sales. Available in long and extra-long wheelbase guises, a payload of 735kg and maximum 3.8m3 load volume, the brand says the 111CDI will appeal to operators who need to carry heavy loads over longdistances and also to thoserequiring a towing capacity. It hasa maximum braked trailer weight of 1050kg in panel van guise.

The manufacturer says the new diesel has a price uplift of around £770 over existing powertrains, which prices it from £15,735, excluding VAT, and the vehicle is in showrooms now.

Mercedes has also launched a 114hp 1.2-litre petrol-engined model, dubbed the Citan 112. Like the new diesel, it gets a six-speed manual gearbox rather than the five-speed transmission used in the rest of the line-up. Prices for the petrol model are yet to be confirmed, ahead of its January arrival.

Fuel consumption on the combined cycle for the 111CDi is put at 64.1mpg with CO2 emissions of 115g/km, and for the 112 official consumption is 46.2mpg with emissions of 140g/km. Service intervals are 24,000, as with all diesel Citans, and 18,000 miles respectively.

This contrasts with the more predictable ordering patterns that cover most Vito and Sprinter purchases.

Hasselwander says retailing the Citan has been challenging for the dealer network’s sales staff but claims the van has made a strong start in the UK, where he estimates it has gained a 5% market share since launching last year, compared with 3% in the rest of western Europe and 6% in Germany. Mercedes registered 7000 Citans across Europe in 2012 and expects to more than double this total in 2013.

He claims the Citan has conquested many of its customers from the VW Caddy, a natural rival in terms of perceived quality and brand prestige, but says a major challenge has been the heavy incentive deals offered by light van competitors.

Hasselwander says: “We know they are not earning a cent.”

The Citan also suffered a setback when it received a poor Euro NCAP crash safety test score (three out of five) with what the testing body described as a “lacklustre” performance. Mercedes claims it has analysed the reasons for the poor result, together with its cooperation partner, Renault, which provides the base for the Citan with its Kangoo, and is implementing steps to resolve any safety issues.

Meanwhile, Mercedes has introduced a manufacturer-validated conversion programme across Europe under the ‘VanPartner’ banner. The scheme includes 451 registered bodybuilders in the UK.

The manufacturer says around half of large Sprinter vans in Europe receive a body or interior fittings from a specialist, compared with a quarter of medium-sized Vitos and 16% of Citans.

The Citan has not enjoyed the smoothest of entries into the market but Mercedes is confident it is now in a better position to establish itself as a major player in the light van sector.

Mercedes says the petrol Citan will serve well as an urban delivery van covering lower mileages than its diesel stablemates, and will also find favour with customers who want to use it privately as well as for business due to its comparatively quiet and refined characteristics. In the UK, the petrol Citan will be a niche player, the firm admits.

As well as expanding the engine range on offer, the manufacturer has introduced an extra-long wheelbase Traveliner model with seven seats, arriving in the first quarter of 2014. The third row of seats, accessed by leaning the middle row forward, consists of two individual seats that can be folded down or removed as required. Removing the third seat row creates a load volume of 2.2m3, which increases to 3.5m3 if the second row is also taken out. The Traveliner is available with two engine variants: the 95hp Citan 109 and the 110hp Citan 111.

Mercedes admits the transition into the light van market with the Citan has not been without its difficulties, and has presented a different set of challenges to those it faces in the medium van sector with the Vito and the heavy van sector with the Sprinter. Not the least of these problems has been the difficult economic conditions persisting in much of Europe.

Purchasing decision

Citan Chief engineer, Andreas Hasselwander, says customers on light vans can be more “price-sensitive” than those buying larger vans.

Mercedes’ LCV boss Norbert Kunz adds: “Unlike with the Vito or Sprinter, the purchasing decision is often made quite spontaneously – customers prefer to climb right in and drive off.”

This contrasts with the more predictable ordering patterns that cover most Vito and Sprinter purchases.

Hasselwander says retailing the Citan has been challenging for the dealer network’s sales staff but claims the van has made a strong start in the UK, where he estimates it has gained a 5% market share since launching last year, compared with 3% in the rest of western Europe and 6% in Germany. Mercedes registered 7000 Citans across Europe in 2012 and expects to more than double this total in 2013.

He claims the Citan has conquested many of its customers from the VW Caddy, a natural rival in terms of perceived quality and brand prestige, but says a major challenge has been the heavy incentive deals offered by light van competitors.

Hasselwander says: “We know they are not earning a cent.”

The Citan also suffered a setback when it received a poor Euro NCAP crash safety test score (three out of five) with what the testing body described as a “lacklustre” performance. Mercedes claims it has analysed the reasons for the poor result, together with its cooperation partner, Renault, which provides the base for the Citan with its Kangoo, and is implementing steps to resolve any safety issues.

Meanwhile, Mercedes has introduced a manufacturer-validated conversion programme across Europe under the ‘VanPartner’ banner. The scheme includes 451 registered bodybuilders in the UK.

The manufacturer says around half of large Sprinter vans in Europe receive a body or interior fittings from a specialist, compared with a quarter of medium-sized Vitos and 16% of Citans.

The Citan has not enjoyed the smoothest of entries into the market but Mercedes is confident it is now in a better position to establish itself as a major player in the light van sector.

 



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