The great and the good of the light commercial vehicle industry gathered at an exclusive central London venue before Christmas to salute the best products and innovations in the business.

The UK’s first Indian restaurant to receive a Michelin star, Zaika in Kensington, hosted the lunch for the What Van? awards, which for 2014 covered an extended range of 14 categories.

What Van? editor Paul barker kicked off proceedings with an introductory speech to the assembled guests, consisting of 60 of the most influential figures in the commercial vehicle field.

Following a delicious meal accompanied by lively discussion, barker announced the winners, and handed out the prestigious awards, alongside Mark Lovett, head of commercial vehicles at major top firm Leaseplan, which kindly sponsored the event. Leaseplan has established itself as the number one name in van leasing since creating a dedicated light commercial vehicle division in 2011. before this, in common with most leasing companies, it directed most of its resources towards cars.

Lovett, who heads up a five-strong LCV team, said: “We are now a car and van leasing company – we are equally capable in both.”

Leaseplan has learnt from the truck industry in changing its culture to meet the needs of LCV operators.

“It’s easy to tell people you’ll manage their vehicles in a certain way,” explained Lovett, “but
you have to demonstrate the credibility of this, and we are ahead of the game.”

The big winner at the 2014 What Van? awards was Ford, which has undertaken an overhaul of its LCV line-up during the past two years. Its medium-sized van, the Transit Custom, won the prestigious What Van? Van of the year prize for the second year in a row to become the first model ever to achieve this feat. Ford sold just short of 11,000 Transit Custom vans in 2013, its first full year on the market following the launch of the bar-raising model in late 2012.

Ford representatives also left the event clutching trophies for Small Van of the year (Fiesta Van) and Pick-up of the year (ranger) while the brand was also Highly Commended for Safety, thanks to the Transit Custom gaining a maximum five-star euro NCaP test score, and used Van, for the current- generation Transit, which shared the runners-up spot with the Mercedes Sprinter in a new award category won by the Volkswagen Transporter.

Another significant addition for 2014 was the opening of the What Van? Hall of Fame, established to honour the most influential products, people and events in the LCV arena.
The inaugural entrant was the Vauxhall’s Vivaro. Sporting radical, groundbreaking looks when it debuted in 2001, the Vivaro has been a fixture on the uK’s roads for more than a decade.

More than 900,000 units of the van and its renault Trafic and Nissan Primastar siblings have rolled out of Vauxhall’s factory in Luton, and in transforming Vauxhall into the nation’s leading producer of vans it is hard to overestimate the importance of the Vivaro to the brand’s commercial vehicle operation in the UK.