(Continued from page 1) The Berlingo, along with its sibling vans, introduced innovative options to the light van sector, such as an onboard weighing system, to guard against overloading, and a surround-vision camera to improve the driver’s visibility.
Hickin says the better-specified versions are proving attractive to customers, as is demonstrated by the popularity of the Enterprise.
The Berlingo is already available as an electric van, Citroen has supplied one to the government-backed Go Ultra Low scheme this year, but perhaps of even more significance will be the arrival later this year of plug-in derivatives of the Dispatch and Relay, with respective claimed payloads of 1.0t and 1.2t, and load volumes matching diesel equivalents.
“Our estimate is that vans that can offer good range, and uncompromised load space and payload will be the winners when it comes to convincing customers,” Hickin predicts.
He says demand for electric vans will grow as more cities introduce air quality programmes, but cautions: “Support legislation and grant funding will be important factors in electric van acceptance.”
In the short to medium term Citroen expects demand for diesel-powered vans to remain dominant in the market, and the brand, like its competitors, will continue to supply what its customers ask for despite the urgency for manufacturers to find viable alternatives to the internal combustion engine.
“Citroen was one of the first vehicle manufacturers to offer diesel power and has been an early adopter of emissions-reducing technologies such as the diesel particulate filter. The current Euro6.2 diesel range offers very low emissions and fuel consumption,” Hickin points out.
As previously noted, Citroen, as part of the PSA Group, is heavily involved in platform sharing, particularly when it comes to light vans, and with PSA currently in talks with Fiat Chrysler about a merger, it is possible Fiat’s Doblo Cargo could become the next model to join the platform.
So, how does this affect the way Citroen approaches the van market? Hickin claims the individual brands maintain independent sales teams, with each retaining its own focus.
“Citroen has a long-established business sales network for LCVs, which is used to giving quality advice on vehicle specification, funding and other issues relevant to van customers.
Citroen maintains its focus on its customers, not the competition,” he stresses.
He would not be drawn on whether Citroen considers brands such as Ford and Volkswagen as bigger rivals than those with whom it shares platforms.
“We would consider all competitors ripe for conquest,” he comments.
But with so many similar vans to choose from, customer service becomes a crucial selling point. In this respect Hickin claims Citroen is in a strong position because it has an established business sales network. The operation consists of Business Centres, which have two staff members dedicated to vans and are expected to sell up to 1,000 units annually, and Business Active sites that retail up to 100 LCVs a year. These outlets may have an employee dedicated solely to vans but are not obliged to. Nevertheless, customers can be confident they will meet a degree of specialism in vans at the vast majority of dealerships.
“Van customers need confidence in their supplier and the product,” Hickin affirms.
The manufacturer expects it will have 55 Business Centres up and running by the end of 2020, an expansion of 20% year-on-year, according to Hickin.
He adds: “Citroen’s revised Reward Programmes for 2020 means that every Citroen dealer is incentivised to focus on van sales – most sell vans already – which will help local businesses looking for modern reliable vans.”
Hickin says the Reward Programmes will help the network build on the enhanced engagement with van sales it established last year and emphasises that the manufacturer will also be focusing in 2020 on preparing its network for its LCV electrification programme.
To all intents and purposes Citroen is an upwardly mobile brand. It is in a prominent position within the PSA Group and looks set fair to become a jewel in the dynasty’s crown.