With the van market swinging into recovery mode Citroen has set its sights on strengthening its position in the fleet sector.
Last year the French brand consolidated its position as the UK’s fifth biggest commercial vehicle manufacturer by growing sales by 17% to more than 18,000, while in January it posted a 32% rise with 1414 sales to put it in fourth place for the month above Renault as both brands leapfrogged Mercedes.
Taking its inspiration from the business-class service offered to airline customers, the brand has initiated a pan-European customer service programme, while in the UK it has enlisted almost half of its dealerships as Business Centres to focus on the requirements of fleet customers.
Martin Hamill, Citroen’s newly appointed commercial vehicle and business sector boss, who replaces Charles Peugeot, who has stepped up to the role of sales director at Citroen UK, says the aim is to “set the industry benchmark for light commercial vehicle service”.
Hamill continues:?“We stated a commitment to enhance the customer sales and aftersales experience a year ago with the Business Centre programme and we now have 90 dealers on board.”
The participating sites include dedicated sales and aftersales staff and offer extended workshop hours to cause minimum disruption to working fleets. A variety of courtesy vans are also offered, including Dispatch and Relay models, and a wider range of LCV demonstrators are available than in standard dealerships. The sites stock a larger choice of Citroen-approved used LCVs too, and include displays of Ready to Run conversion vans. LCV technical support staff are on hand and a range of while-you-wait service operations are provided.
Citroen is rolling out a new corporate identity across its Business Centres, a process it expects to complete by the end of 2011. So far 25 centres have rebranded in the UK and a further 10 were on course to have completed the work by the end of February.
The brand says its target is “to provide all fleet customers, irrespective of fleet size, with even higher levels of specialist support”.
Robert Handyside, Citroen’s CV boss, says the manufacturer’s top-of-the-range Enterprise models, available across the line-up, “meet the aspirations of drivers and operators” with standard kit such as aircon, Bluetooth and rear parking sensors. Another key element in its Business Class programme is the Trafficmaster Smartnav and Trackstar telematics package, which, Citroen claims, is crucial in improving fleet productivity. The package has been standard on Berlingo, Dispatch and Relay panel vans since early last year and is a £399 plus VAT option on the Nemo, Berlingo First and platform cabs, Dispatch platform cabs and Relay crew and chassis cabs.
Operators with vans equipped with Trafficmaster can also specify Fleet Director, a real-time fleet management tool, which costs £19.99 plus VAT a month.
Citroen has been comparatively slow in introducing Euro5 engines to its vans but claims the approach was prudent in enabling it to optimise the technology available.
Following the launch of the Euro5 Nemo in January, Citroen will roll-out Euro5 Berlingo e-HDi 90 manual and auto Stop & Start models in the second quarter of 2011 as well as the Relay HDi 180 six-speed. The third quarter will see the introduction of remaining Relay and all Euro5 Dispatch models. Finally, in the last three months of this year, the remaining Euro5 Berlingos (1.6i 95hp and HDi 75 and 90hp) will join the line-up.
The UK’s largest Citroen CV dealership, Citroen Coventry, has delivered 22 Berlingo Enterprise HDi 90 vans to AFI-Uplift, a powered-access rental firm. The initial delivery will be followed by the supply of a further 30 Berlingos by the second quarter of 2011 as Wakefield-based AFI-Uplift moves to reduce the carbon footprint of its fleet.
AFI-Uplift’s operations director Nick Higgins says the firm had been impressed by the Citroen Dispatch vans on its fleet but had specified Berlingo vans for its service engineers to provide “further environmental and fuel efficiency gains”.
According to Higgins the Berlingo’s Trafficmaster Smartnav system would also improve efficiencies by making it easier for engineers to find sites.
AFI-Uplift, which has 18 UK depots, has specified ply-lining, alarms, full steel bulkheads and roof-mounted light bars for its vans in addition to the Berlingo Enterprise’s standard equipment.