Ford commanded the spotlight at the Commercial Vehicle Show last month, with the unveiling of its compact Transit Courier, which enabled it to display its full new line-up of LCVs for the first time.
The Courier was joined on the Blue Oval stand at Birmingham’s NEC by production versions of the Transit Connect and two-tonne Transit, which go on sale late this year and early 2014 respectively, as well as the Transit Custom, which it revealed in 2012 but which also appeared in high-roof guise (giving it a load volume of 8.3m3) for the first time as well as in Econetic and Sport Van modes.
The Courier, the new baby in the panel van family, arrives in showrooms in 2014. The powertrains on offer will be two diesels – a 75hp 1.5 and a 90hp 1.6 – and Ford’s 1.0-litre petrol Ecoboost engine. It has a payload capacity of 660kg and a load volume of 2.3m3 and features overhead and under-seat stowage as well as the Ford Sync communication package and a rear view reversing camera as standard. The Courier gives Ford a model to compete in the compact van sector against the Peugeot Bipper, Citroen Nemo and Fiat Fiorino.
Visitors to the Ford stand were also able to run the rule over the new 1.5-litre, 87g/km Fiesta Van as well as the Ranger pick-up, which Ford first showcased at the NEC event in 2011.
Phil Hollins, Ford of Britain’s new fleet director, pointed out that the Transit is the brand’s third biggest-selling model line after the Fiesta and Focus passenger cars. Ford aims to sell 400,000 Transit-badged vans a year in Europe by 2016 – an increase of 66% on 2012.
The secretary of state for transport, Patrick McLoughlin, pictured below with Nissan’s GB fleet and LCV boss Jon Pollock, attended the opening day of this year’s CV Show, holding a round-table discussion with industry bodies and touring the event, including a visit to Nissan’s stand where he took in the new electric e-NV200 model.
During the round-table, alternative fuels, road safety and capital allowances were among the issues covered.
Nissan gave a UK debut to the electric version of its NV200 light van. One version was decked out in British Gas livery to mark the end of the utilities giant’s month-long testing programme of the e-NV200 with a view to adding it to its 13,000-vehicle LCV fleet within two years.
The vehicle will be added to Nissan’s line-up next March, and Nissan’s European fleet and LCV boss Jordi Vila Onses described the vehicle as “a key pillar on Nissan’s strategy of growth, both in the CV market and for Nissan Europe where we are trying to double our volume by 2015”.
Regarding the demo programme with the development vehicles, Vila Onses said: “Given this is a new type of vehicle, it is a way to ensure we incorporate the feedback of users into the vehicle’s final development.”
“The vehicle is not for everyone, we need to understand what is the optimal application and then target certain customers,” he continued. “And it’s very important to explain to the driver how differently you have to drive the vehicle versus a conventional engine.
Obtaining as much cargo space as they can without having to venture over the 3.5-tonne barrier and become enmeshed in a tightly-drawn net of tough regulations is a key consideration for many operators.
They're the customers that Cullompton, Devon-based body builder Trucksmith is targeting with the 3.5-tonne Fiat Ducato platform-cab based Canniloader, an external exhibit at this year's British Commercial Vehicle Show.
Offering up to 24.4m3 of space depending on the version selected, Canniloader can handle a gross payload capacity of up to 1,200kg. Rear loading height is a modest 550mm, falling to 450mm if you want rear air-suspension, and an air-management system is fitted.
Present inside the show on the Fiat Professional standard was the new Ducato tipper. Using a medium-wheelbase 3.5-tonne chassis, it is a conversion developed in conjunction with VFS.
Equipped with sides and a tailboard made from anodised aluminium, the body can be fitted to both single- and double-cab models. Maximum gross payload is 1335kg and the tipping action comes courtesy of an under-floor multi-stage hydraulic ram with chromium-plated cylinders.
European Community Whole Vehicle Type Approval is a concern for businesses that specialise in installing van load area racking systems, although as it turns out the rules will not be quite as onerous for them as was originally anticipated.
Companies in the sector that were present at the show included Bri-Stor, which was promoting its new steel hardtops for pick-up load areas, featuring gull-wing side doors.
Sortimo was displaying a racked-out Transit Custom (below) with a carrying case for parts concealed in a stowage area beneath the passenger seat, which is accessible from the load area as well as from the cab.
Conversion specialist Tevo launched a lightweight steel racking system at the show, which is fully compatible with its current ranges. It said the structure retains the strength of previous racking while reducing weight to increase payload capacity, improve consumption and cut CO2.
Fiat Professional is constructing ambitious long-term growth plans that will initially be driven by a push into more conversions and niche applications as well as improving the dealer network.
The firm has appointed new dealers in areas including Norwich, Sheffield, the West Country and Oldham as it revamps the network, with the aim of an even split between passenger car and heavy truck specialists taking on the Italian LCV franchise.
“They don’t attack the same market and you can have the benefits of both,” Fiat Professional UK director Sebastiano Fedrigo explained to What Van? “HGV dealers can do extended opening hours and tend to be bigger but hidden, so they are not so accessible for retail customers, and passenger car dealers have better showrooms and display space.” There is more work to be done, with the current level of 123 dealers set to reduce to what Fedrigo describes as an “ideal” 110, although if the firm’s volume aspirations come to pass then the numbers could eventually swell to 160.
“We have to do it gradually. Our market share in Europe is 12% and in the eyes of my bosses there is no reason why it should not be at the same level here, but we want to do it organically and sensibly,” he continued. “We’re looking for double-digit [share], not next year but it’s in the back of our mind. It’s going to take some years but there is no reason why not.”
The opportunity for greater penetration of the conversion and niche vehicle sector has not gone unnoticed, with Fiat creating a new position of converter business development manager, filled by Andy Parker, in order to exploit the sector in the wake of the type approval legislation changes for LCV conversions.
“We need to get closer to bodybuilders,” said Fedrigo, pointing to developments on the brand’s stand including a Ducato Tipper built by VFS, Fiorino crew van built with Snoeks, Scudo crew van converted locally by Snoeks, and the factory-built Doblo XL and Doblo Work Up models.
Paneltex of Hull displayed a temperature-controlled dual-compartment MWB?HR Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 3.5-tonner intended for the likes of the pharmaceutical industry. It is set up to enable up to -25 degrees C to be maintained in one compartment and up to +25 degrees C in the other if required. A two-piece moveable bulkhead is fitted along with GAH's SHC401 dual-evaporator refrigeration system, and the ATP Class C certified conversion is executed by Paneltex's Norfolk-based Paneltex Somers.
Also on the Paneltex stand was a VW?Crafter 3.5-tonne chassis with a dual compartment body – frozen at the front, chilled at the back – aimed at home-delivery fleets. Equipped with a moveable bulkhead with centre door, it is fitted with a GAH Super Rapier SRF21T direct-drive fridge unit and Paneltex says it has benefited from a letter of no objection from VW.
Gray & Adams was busy promoting its new Doncaster-built home-delivery vehicle on a 3.5-tonne Sprinter chassis. Also equipped with a GAH refrigeration system, it is capable of carrying 105 crates and will be competing in a hard-fought market said by Gray & Adams to be worth some 1500 registrations a year. It estimates that the UK has a total supermarket home-delivery fleet of approximately 7500 vehicles.
Not to be outdone, Solomon Commercials of Haslingden, Lancashire, was exhibiting a home-delivery body too, this time on an Iveco Daily 35S11 3.5-tonne chassis and using a Thermo King fridge unit. Access is solely from the nearside, with an ambient compartment with racks for crates at the front and separate chilled and frozen compartments at the back.
Yet another body-builder targeting the home-delivery sector is Peterborough's Lawrence David. Its show vehicle was based on a Sprinter 313CDI 3.5-tonne chassis with a welded-plastic body, plastic rear under-run protection including an access step and employing an alloy sub-frame. The vehicle's un-laden weight is 2080kg which makes for a decent payload and Lawrence David has installed a GAH refrigeration system.
Still with plastics and fridge bodies, Strongs Plastic Products was displaying a polypropylene body on a Toyota Hilux pick-up chassis in the livery of Northumbrian Water. Kitted out with a Carrier Neos fridge unit, it is the first that Strongs has built on a Hilux, and is used to collect water samples.
Autogas has called on the Government to commit long-term support to subsidising LPG to encourage manufacturers and customers to invest in the fuel.
Speaking at the Commercial Vehicle Show, the firm’s business development manager, Paul Oxford said that although LPG has benefited from lower fuel duty levels (currently 15.8p per litre) for 16 years, UK governments have never pledged to maintain their support beyond three years at a time.
“If we’d have known we’d have 16 years of support we would have a far bigger take-up,” said Oxford.
“We want continued support over a longer period – such as a 10-year commitment, like in Germany,”
He claimed this level of state backing had helped to increase the volume of LPG vehicles in Germany from 40,000 to 500,000 within three years.
Kwik-fit has commenced the process of offering Class 7 MoT test capability to 3.0-3.5-tonne LCVs.
“We’re rolling it out as part of our commitment to LCVs,” Kwik-fit Fleet boss Peter Lambert told What Van? “There are currently only a handful of sites but that will progress and over the next couple of years I envisage a couple of hundred sites.” The latest site to offer Class 7 MoTs opened in Basildon recently, joining Telford and Kwik-Fit sister firm STS Tyre Pros-branded centres in Hitchin and Norwich, with Luton, Sale and Slough soon to follow. Kwik-Fit also used the show to launch its new fleet card Drive, which can pay for fuel, Kwik-Fit products and breakdown cover.
Car and light commercial vehicle leasing company Leaseplan used the 2013 Commercial Vehicle Show to effectively relaunch itself into van leasing.
The firm embarked on what commercial vehicle boss Mark Lovett called a “dedicated commercial vehicle strategy” in 2011, and has since added another 5000 LCVs to its previous fleet of 30,000.
“The strategy was off the back of recognizing that the van leasing market had a lot of untapped potential and we needed to embrace the specialist marketplace, ensure we understand the characteristics of CVs and before we were overly focused on passenger cars,” Lovett told What Van? “If you want to embrace the opportunities and potential in CVs, you need to understand it. Our appearance at the show is testament to our long-term commitment to being in this marketplace.”
Lex Autolease employed the CV Show as a way to raise its profile in the commercial vehicle arena, with a quarter of the firm’s vehicles falling into the sub-3.5t light commercial category.
Of that, 68% are specialist conversions, according to the company’s senior manager of commercial vehicles Gary Bannister, with the company building on the fact that it has specialist engineers within the business. “It allows us to talk to suppliers rather than third parties,” he explained. His was a new role added by Lex Autolease in October, using his previous experience as a fleet manager to “add customer fleet management operational experience to the team”.
The principle of continual upgrade and replacement as seen with mobile phone contracts is one Mercedes-Benz UK’s van sales and marketing director Steve Bridge is eyeing.
The company showcased its new Citan light van at the CV Show, and is now looking for growth in order to fulfill its ambition of overtaking VW to become the UK’s second-biggest LCV brand after Ford.
“If you look at phones, after 18 months you’re due an upgrade,” said Bridge. “To try and do that [with LCVs] is not beyond the wit of man, it’s just not an overnight light switch task.”
He said the car and van industry had got into the habit of three-year cycles, usually revolving around warranty and mileage and residual value calculations to get the holding and capital costs. “Provided the holding cost is right for the customer, why does it have to be three years?” he asked. “Why can’t you change customers into a new vehicle when the time is right for them, not when the time is right for outside influences; that’s an education, changing years of culture.”
Citroen debuted its new Electric Berlingo at the CV Show prior to it going on sale in the summer.
With the batteries included the model will cost £21,300, excluding VAT. Once the Government’s Plug-in Van Grant is factored in a further 20% should be lopped off the starting price.
Scott Michael, Citroen’s CV boss, said: “There is an appetite for electric vans, they are more utilitarian and suitable than electric cars.”
The brand is keen to talk up its heritage in the electric van sector and points out its new EV is a second generation model, following the original Berlingo Electrique, which ran from 1998 to 2005.
The latest model uses lithium-ion as opposed to its predecessor’s lead acid batteries.
The electric motor is housed under the bonnet and the battery pack positioned beneath the load deck, allowing for a payload of 636kg and load space of up to 3.7m3 – the same as a diesel-powered Berlingo.
With a battery capacity of 22.5kW, Citroen claimed the Berlingo Electrique has a range of 105 miles.
Using a domestic socket the van can be charged in eight and a half hours or it can be charged to 80% of capacity in 35 minutes with a specific 380V three-phase terminal in quick-charge mode.
Continental Tyres launched two new products for vans at the NEC. The ContivanContact 100 is designed for rugged use on hard-working panel vans while the ContivanContact 200 is targeted at minibuses and for use on better road surfaces, where it has been designed to improve safety.
Continental’s brand manager Peter Robb said the new tyres improved upon the firm’s existing Vanco2 products, which he claimed were fitted to 40% of new vans in the UK.
He also said the use of optimised silica compound had improved grip in wet conditions.
TomTom Business Solutions launched a new App Centre, giving customers a complete run-down of the bolt-on services developed by third parties for the firm’s systems.
“The possibilities are endless,” said marketing manager Giles Margerison. “It’s a call to action. We want to forge relationships with hardware vendors.”
The Webfleet platform pairs with the likes of customer service, scheduling and resource systems, and TomTom recently opened the Bluetooth channel on its Link in-vehicle device, enabling links with a range of in-vehicle systems such as digital pens, form-filling and on-board weighing, temperature or tyre pressure monitoring. At launch, around 50 applications were available on TomTom’s online App Centre.
Iveco displayed its new lower-CO2 version of the Daily 3.5-tonne van at the CV Show, using stop/start and a new lightweight six-speed gearbox to cut emissions and fuel consumption by up to 10% compared with the previous model. The firm has also added a new gear-shift indicator to help improve driver behaviour.
Safety organisation Tyresafe warned businesses at the CV Show against cutting costs by not investing in new tyres. It said low tread depths compromised safety and claimed that, according to the Department for Transport, there were 1200 deaths or injuries related to faulty tyres in 2012.
Isuzu’s stand at the CV Show was used to highlight the latest accessories available for its D-max pick-up that launched last year. The additions, available across the firm’s dealer network, include upgraded alloys and off-road tyres, new vinyl or armadillo roll cover for the load bay, heavy-duty seat covers and cosmetic additions of stainless steel-style bars.
Autosock used the CV Show to exhibit its reusable micro-fibre socks that can be pulled over tyres to improve grip in the snow. The firm claimed the socks self-centre on the tyres, take a couple of minutes to fit, are easy to store and can provide a cheap alternative to snow chains or winter tyres. They cost £50-£70 a pair.
The organiser of the Commercial Vehicle Show believes a number of the van makers that missed the 2013 event will return next year.
Notable absentees were Vauxhall, Peugeot, Volkswagen, and Renault, the first two of which took stand space last year. Due to the timing of their product cycles, Bob Sockl said: “We do expect to see some van manufacturers back next year.”
In particular he pointed out that Vauxhall would be anxious to promote its new Luton-built Vivaro while Renault will be launching its next-generation Trafic in 2014.
“Being at the show is an opportunity to look customers in the eye,” Sockl said.
He said exhibition space booked across the three halls had increased by 2100m2 this year. At the time of going to press, Sockl expected visitor numbers to reach 16,000 across the three days, which is on a par with last year’s event.
The 2014 Commercial Vehicle Show will take place at the NEC in Birmingham from 29 April-1 May.