Franco Miniero, Chief executive officer, Fiat light commercial vehicles


Now operating under the Fiat Professional brand, you’ve just launched the Fiorino, which slots in below Doblò Cargo, but above the Grande Punto Van. How many do you expect to sell annually?

We should be able to reach at least 40,000 units in 2009.


You’re offering it with an automated manual gearbox as an option. How popular do you expect this box to be?

I think volumes will be limited and that it will be fitted to no more than 2,000 Fiorinos a year.


You’ve exhibited an electric Fiorino developed in conjunction with Italian specialist Micro-Vett. Will a right-hand drive version be available?

Yes. Electric Fiorino can reach a top speed of 85kph (over 50mph) and has a range of over 100 kilometres (upwards of 60 miles). The battery sits in the space normally occupied by the spare wheel so it doesn’t intrude into the load area, and because it is lithium-ion you don’t lose too much payload capacity. Load space is more important than payload anyway so far as most customers for this type of van are concerned. This isn’t our only electric vehicle. We’ve already got electric versions of the Doblò running in France, Italy, Switzerland and Norway. We’ve come up with an electric Scudo too and we’re considering an electric Ducato.


Would you think about offering your vehicles as diesel/electric hybrids?

At present the price would be so high that it would put a lot of buyers off. We have, however, been busy developing vans that will run on compressed natural gas for customers who need a longer range than an electric van can offer.


How well is the latest Scudo selling?

We sold over 30,000 in the first nine months of this year, up more than 82 per cent on what we achieved with the previous model during the same period in 2006. We should sell 41,000 this year rising to 45,000 to 46,000 in 2008. The 2.0-litre 120hp diesel is proving to be the most popular, which is what we expected.


How successful is the new Ducato proving to be?

It’s taking more than 17 per cent of its market across Europe and that figure is higher in some countries. It’s achieving 20 per cent penetration in Germany, for example. We should sell more than 140,000 this year and that will be a record.


Over the past few months many customers buying vans of a variety of makes have complained about having to wait too long for delivery. Have long lead times been a problem for you?

Yes and we are still suffering, mainly so far as Doblò and Ducato are concerned. But we are working to bring lead times down.


Do you have any plans to enter the purpose-built pick-up market, possibly in conjunction with Tata?

It’s something we’re still thinking about, but we haven’t reached any conclusions.



Henrik Nenzen, Director, commercial vehicles, Ford of Europe


Is Ford planning to launch a rival to the Citroën Nemo/Peugeot Bipper/Fiat Fiorino?

I’ve studied their specifications and I have to say that our existing short-wheelbase Transit Connect covers the segment pretty well in terms of both load space and payload capacity.


Connect is a solidly engineered vehicle and while that’s fine if you’re a construction company, it may be over-engineered if you’re a florist. Might there be a role therefore for a more lightly constructed van based on a Fiesta platform — rather like the old Courier — to appeal to customers in less-demanding trades?

Remember that florists use their vans every day and can cover quite high mileages during the course of a week if they’re out delivering to customers. So even if we decided to introduce another small van to the range, we’d still want to build it tough and reliable like Connect. We also know of many instances where customers have switched to Connect having previously bought less solidly constructed vans from rival manufacturers so we wouldn’t want to abandon our current strategy.


How many Connects will you sell this year?

Nearly 80,000, up almost 4,000 on 2006’s total; a five per cent improvement. Sales of all our commercial vehicles are up considerably compared with last year — by an anticipated 34,000-plus — and with Transit in particular we’ve had problems keeping up with the strong demand. The need to get vehicles to customers more quickly is my biggest headache at the moment.


We’ve been seeing 16-week lead times, but your move to increase capacity at your plant in Turkey and make changes at the Southampton factory — the former builds Transit and Connect, the latter Transit only — should help bring them down. You have expanded the Transit range with the introduction of 200hp 3.2-litre and 140hp 2.2-litre diesels, the addition of some heavier models and the imminent arrival of a 4×4. When will it go into production?

Production has started, but only 200 to 300 will be delivered to customers this year. Next year and in the following years we’ll sell around 3,000 to 4,000 annually, but I have to say that this is quite a rough estimate.


The old Transit used to be available with an automated manual transmission called Durashift but the new one isn’t. Will you be re-introducing one in future?

We’re watching developments, but we have no immediate plans. Not having one hasn’t been a big disadvantage because there’s not a strong demand for it.


Do you think that more and more customers are moving down to 3.5 tonnes from 7.5 tonnes in response to all the rules and regulations that surround the operation of heavier vehicles?

I think one thing that is driving this trend is internet shopping. If you’re delivering, say, books bought over the internet to 20 houses in an afternoon, you don’t need a very large vehicle to do it. Remember too that some cities in Europe are either prohibiting trucks from entry or penalising operators who want to bring them in by charging entrance fees.


Several of your competitors allow their light commercials to be run on fuel containing up to 30 per cent biodiesel. What’s your policy?

At present we don’t recommend anything stronger than five per cent. If you go higher then you run the risk of compromising reliability and durability because of the effect biodiesel may have on the engine’s components.



Patrice Ramage, LCV global product and marketing director


You’ve just unveiled the Bipper sub-compact van. When will it appear in dealerships and how many do you expect to sell a year?

It will go on sale in Italy in December and in the rest of Europe from next spring onwards and we expect to sell 30,000 in 2008. Our target is to sell 50,000 annually and we should achieve that in 2009.


Are you concerned that Bipper will steal sales from Partner, its bigger brother?

Some customers who do not need Partner’s load area capacity will certainly opt for Bipper, but we reckon that Bipper will give us the opportunity to win a lot of conquest business from other manufacturers; from Renault and its Kangoo, for example (Renault has just announced a Bipper rival in the shape of the new Kangoo Van Compact). We believe that this will outweigh any risk that Partner sales will be affected. Bipper should also appeal to people who run old Citroën C15s and are looking for something new. It’s also worth noting that its CO2 emissions are as low as 119g/km and that’s good news for the environment.


Bipper will be available with an automated manual gearbox. How many buyers do you think will specify it?

Sales of this type of ‘box always seem to be a little disappointing and I expect it to be fitted to no more than around 10 per cent of all Bippers sold.


Why do such gearboxes remain comparatively unpopular?

Partly it’s due to price and partly to a feeling among drivers in some markets that they want to move a gearstick.


In the light of what you’ve just said do you have any plans to offer an automated manual gearbox as an option on Boxer? You could do so quite easily if you wanted to.

We’ve not made a decision yet. We think motor homes would account for the majority of sales, but although Peugeot does well in that market in the UK, we’re not that successful in it elsewhere in Europe.


How are Partner sales going?

Remarkably well. Every year we exceed the volumes we achieved the year before and we should reach 157,000 worldwide this year. That will be a record.


When will the new Partner debut?

In 1994 we launched Boxer, in 1995 the Expert and in 1996 the Partner. We introduced the latest Boxer in 2006 and the latest Expert this year along with Bipper, so you can draw your own conclusions about when the latest Partner will appear! We are completely revamping our range so we might well be seeing it in the coming months.


How well has the new Expert been received?

It’s been a big success — we should sell 40,000 this year and close to 50,000 in 2008 — and we’re looking to increase production. The percentage of sales taken by the high roof van is a bit less than we expected, although that’s because we don’t as yet have it available in sufficient volume. We thought it would take 12 per cent, but so far it’s taking between nine and 10 per cent.


Which engine derivative — they’re all diesels — is proving to be the most popular?

The 120hp 2.0-litre. It’s taking about 45 per cent of sales. The 90hp 1.6-litre takes 40 per cent while the 136hp 2.0-litre accounts for the balance.


How successful is the latest Boxer? And how are you coping with selling the 4.0-tonner? It’s the first time Peugeot has ventured above 3.5 tonnes and takes you into a challenging area involving tachographs and Operator’s Licences.

We’ll sell around 53,000 Boxers this year. As for the 4.0-tonner, to be frank we didn’t quite anticipate some of the complexities that have to be taken into account. It’s something we’ll have to deal with next year.



Bruno Morange, Senior vice president, Renault Commercial Vehicles


Launched at the European Road Transport Show in Amsterdam, the new Kangoo Van and Kangoo Van Compact won’t be on sale in the UK until the third quarter of 2008. Why are British customers having to wait so long given that left-hand drive countries will get the former in January and the latter in May/June?

It’s a question of scheduling and volume. Our biggest volume sales are in left-hand drive markets so we’re putting left-hand drive models into production first, with right-hand drive versions coming along immediately afterwards. It’s a complex programme with almost 200 different variants and we have to proceed step-by-step. We won’t get them all into production until the end of next year. However, the right-hand drive version of the current Kangoo will be available until September 2008.


How many new Kangoos do you expect to sell annually, including the Compact?

In 2009, our first full production year, we hope to sell from 230,000 to 250,000. Half the total will be vans and half passenger vehicles.


How many Compacts do you aim to sell each year?

We’re talking about a niche product, so it will probably be around 30,000.


Renault is in the driving seat at Rumanian manufacturer Dacia these days. Do you have any plans to sell the budget-price Dacia Logan Van — already on sale in Rumania and Bulgaria — in Western Europe?

It’s not an idea I would discard.


Would you market it as a Renault, or as a Dacia?

As a Dacia.


How are Trafic sales going?

We’re very happy with them. The only problem we have is the need to increase production to satisfy demand. It’s the same with Master. Next year, however, we’ll be raising the output of both models — by 20 per cent in the case of Trafic — and I’m confident we’ll be able to get back to a one month lead time, certainly so far as Master is concerned. At present it is two months.


Is demand being driven by orders from Eastern Europe?

Not to any great extent. We’ve tended to allocate production to the countries that are the most rewarding for us and East European customers are a bit short of money. As a consequence they’ve been somewhat disappointed compared with customers in Western Europe.


What’s your environmental strategy?

We’ve developed vans that will run on a 30 per cent biodiesel mix and for the future we’re working to decrease CO2 emissions. Our aim is to bring our vehicles down to an average of below 200g/km and possibly below 160g/km.


Sometime ago we discussed the possibility of Trafic and Master being sold in the USA. Has any progress been made in that direction? Both vehicles would represent a massive improvement on most of what’s on sale there at present.

The USA is about 30 years behind the times so far as light commercials are concerned. Renault doesn’t have a network there but General Motors may decide to adapt a derivative of the Master to meet US regulations, although this is still under discussion.


How soon before we see an all-new Master?

Before the end of the decade. 



Harald Schomburg, Worldwide sales and marketing director, Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles


You’ve launched Maxi, the long-wheelbase version of the Caddy, at the Amsterdam show. How many do you expect to sell annually?

Demand for this size of van is growing and we reckon Maxi will account for around one-third of total Caddy volume in the future. We sell upwards of 140,000 Caddys a year at present and Maxi should bring us extra sales on top of that. We’ve increased capacity at the factory in Poland to cope with anticipated future orders.



Will the short-wheelbase Caddy be available with the 140hp 2.0-litre TDI diesel engine on offer in Maxi?

It will. I think that around 15 to 20 per cent of all the Caddy Maxis we sell will be powered by it. The percentage for Caddy will be a bit lower.


Do you intend to offer the DSG gearbox — it can be used as either a manual or as an automatic — available in Caddy in Maxi as well?

Yes. Around 20 to 25 per cent of the Caddy we sell at present are equipped with it and the percentage is increasing.


We’re aware that you intend to re-enter the purpose-built pick-up market in 2010/2011. But do you have any plans to launch a rival to the Citroën Nemo/Peugeot Bipper/Fiat Fiorino?

We think there is a market there and we are analysing it, but we have no plans for an introduction at the moment.


Are you worried that Caddy Maxi sales will erode demand for the short-wheelbase Transporter?

There may be a bit of substitution, but I don’t think it will be significant and we’ve already taken it into account. Admittedly Maxi can carry an 800kg payload and so can the smallest Transporter, but there’s a big difference in load area; 4.3m3 for Maxi compared with 5.7m3 for Transporter. The 800kg Transporter isn’t a big volume seller anyway; volume sales really start with the 1,000kg model.


How are Transporter and Crafter doing?

We’re going to have another record year with Transporter. We’ll be eight to 10 per cent up on 2006’s total. So far as Crafter is concerned we’ll exceed last year’s combined total of around 46,000 Crafter and LT sales.


You market Crafter with the Shiftmatic automated manual gearbox. How popular is it proving to be?

About six to eight per cent of the Crafters we sell are fitted with it, which is what we expected.


Are you taking action to reduce Crafter delivery times?

They’ve been too long and they’re gradually coming down. Our aim is to reduce them to four to six weeks. We’re not there yet, but we think we will be next year.