Mercedes-Benz looks set to follow its rivals at long last and launch a one-stop-shop-style, 'ready to go to work', approved LCV conversions programme in the UK. "We're now seriously investigating the possibility," said van product executive Adam Pointer.
The scheme is likely to emulate a programme already in place in other markets. It will designate around 200 conversion specialists as Van Partners that are obliged to meet demanding quality and product liability standards set by Mercedes.
A far smaller number - just 10 at present - are accorded the Van Solution distinction. Their conversions are sold through Mercedes dealerships with a single invoice covering both the vehicle and the conversion work.
"In the case of a single-invoice transaction, we conduct an extensive examination to ensure that the entire vehicle fulfils our brand and warranty promise," said Peter Strobach, head of the Mercedes-Benz Bodybuilder Centre based in Germany.
The majority of Mercedes conversions in Britain are carried out on the 6000 or so Sprinter chassis cabs sold each year, said Pointer. The major supermarkets that favour them for home delivery work have in-house engineers who arrange to have them bodied to their fleet's particular requirements.
Mercedes wants to increase sales to smaller fleets that do not have this in-house capability, thereby boosting its overall annual registrations. "I'm thinking about businesses where the finance director ends up being responsible for the vans," said Pointer. Individuals in this position are likely to be receptive to the idea of a ready-engineered one-stop package, he suggested.
Any UK programme will have to involve British bodybuilders, Pointer said, and is likely to concentrate on tippers, dropsides, boxes and Lutons. "We probably wouldn't include refrigerated conversions because the requirements of customers vary so much," he added.
Pointer was speaking in Hamburg, Germany, at the TecForum 2015 exhibition of Mercedes-based conversions sourced from all over Europe. The firm used the event to unveil a petrol-powered Euro6 Citan 112 fitted with an optional 6G-DCT twin-clutch semi-automated gearbox due to arrive in Britain in the first quarter of 2016.
A drive revealed a six-speed gearbox that changes gear almost imperceptibly when used as an automatic and responds quickly with zero hesitation.
Mercedes executives were alas unable to say if or when the 'box would be married to Citan's diesel engines.