The standard fitment of AEB introduced on the Caddy, Transporter and Crafter last year should help to significantly improve uptime by reducing accident rates by up to 45%, with the main benefit being in urban areas, according to Zu Dohna.
Zu Dohna acknowledges VW’s recognised converter programme has assumed critical importance in establishing the new Crafter as a central player in the large van segment. It is an area where there is room for growth and one in which the brand has invested heavily since taking production of the Crafter in-house in 2016 at its purpose-built plant at Wrzesnia, Poland. The factory produces off-the-shelf Engineered to Go bodystyles such as tippers, dropsides and Lutons while more bespoke requirements are produced by conversion partners under the Engineered for You programme.
“The Crafter chassis cab is what we have to get right,” Zu Dohna says.
“If you wanted a fridge van you’d go to a converter specialist not a VW dealership, so our approved partners must be able to sell the benefits of the Volkswagen van.”
Zu Dohna says the customer looking for a particular conversion will not put the word ‘Volkswagen’ into a search engine but will instead key in, for example, ‘cherry picker’. It is down to the bodybuilder, therefore, to persuade the customer to choose the Crafter chassis cab.
The manufacturer also aims to establish a foothold in electric vehicle technology and has commenced trials of its plug-in e-Crafter, with Gatwick Airport being a notable recipient of the model in the UK. The electric light commercial has a range of around 100 miles and is expected to come to market before the end of the year. Electric versions of the Caddy and Transporter are set to follow in 2020 with gas-powered derivatives of the former also under consideration for the UK.
Zu Dohna says the EVs will be sold as one vehicle, including the battery, but is conscious that the Van Centre network will have to be educated in how to handle electric vans – particularly in its prime role of catering for the requirements of small businesses with fleets of fewer than 100 vehicles.
Volkswagen has already introduced petrol derivatives of its Caddy and Transporter models and is anticipating interest from urban operators concerned about the possibility of more restrictions being placed upon diesel vehicles.
Zu Dohna says the current take-up of petrol Caddys is a modest 5%, which is still, however, higher than that of Transporters.
Nevertheless, to test the water, the manufacturer has introduced 10 petrol-powered Transporters to trial as Zip Vans in London.
In a move to keep small and medium-sized enterprises onboard, Volkswagen is to unveil a new Business trim for its Caddy, Transporter and Crafter vans at the Commercial Vehicle Show in April.
The light commercial vehicle market is rapidly evolving and to cater for this Zu Dohna says Volkswagen aims to offer a broad mobility solution that must be flexible enough to meet peaks in demand and a wide range of customer needs.
As Volkswagen’s UK boss puts it: “We must [now] provide more than a box on wheels.”