LDV plays long game

Date: Monday, July 21, 2008

LDV is to launch a long-wheelbase 3.5-tonne Maxus chassis cab with an extended frame in the autumn. It will give the vehicle a 750mm rear overhang and is an example of the way in which the Russian-owned manufacturer is attempting to plug gaps in its range.
“We're not offering a van version of this vehicle, but we might just consider doing so at some point in the future,” says sales director, Guy Jones.

The Birmingham-based GAZ subsidiary is also forging ahead with a programme to introduce versions of Maxus that will run on compressed natural gas or liquefied petroleum gas. It's doing so in conjunction with powertrain manufacturer VM, the existing engine supplier.

In addition it's developing a battery-powered Maxus in conjunction with RVL.

There have been major upheavals in LDV's management over the past 12 months with three senior executives departing. Appointing Russians to key posts has involved one or two difficulties over visas, says Jones — relations between the British and Russian governments are somewhat awkward at present — but they seem to have been resolved.

At home LDV is selling fewer vehicles to the big daily rental fleets than it did previously — they offer volume, but not much profit — and entering into far fewer buy-back agreements.


“What we're trying to do instead is focus on retail sales and some of the more profitable fleet deals that are available,” Jones says. The company has strengthened its fleet sales team and is busy beefing up Special Vehicle Operations; an arm of the business that allows it to offer a huge variety of specialised conversions.

Delivery times for vehicles ordered from the factory to customer specifications are from four to six weeks on average, which gives LDV an advantage over some of its rivals. Foregoing rental fleet deals means that domestic registrations are likely to dip this year, however, Jones concedes — they reached 8,760 in 2007 — but sales to overseas buyers should rise.

Exports to Russia in particular look set to become increasingly important. “We're building 250 vehicles a week at present so we're down from where we were, but that's about to go up again thanks to another chunk of Russian volume,” Jones says. “We'll send 3,100 vehicles there this year and we should supply four times that number in 2009.

“What's more, we're expanding our network in the Benelux countries, France and Eastern Europe, and our sales in further-flung countries such as Malaysia,” he says.

The Maxus name looks set to be the one that is increasingly emphasised, especially in export markets, but the LDV name won't be abandoned entirely; and there are no plans for British dealers to scrap their LDV signs and put up GAZ signs instead.

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