Nigel Butler, UK commercial director at Renault Trucks, is looking forward to the opportunity the newcomer presents. He argues that his company’s dealer network enjoys a number of advantages that networks designed primarily to sell cars often lack.

They include an understanding of tachographs and the Drivers Hours rules. Master is now marketed at 4.5 tonnes, and as a consequence falls into this regulatory net.

A request for complex specialist bodywork is unlikely to fox a truck dealer in the way it might someone who is primarily a car dealer. Renault Trucks is offering Master as a chassis cowl as well as in all its other varieties; vans, chassis cabs, chassis double cabs and so on.

So far as aftersales support is concerned, many truck workshops open late into the evening and even round the clock. “Truck dealers are service-driven,” says Butler. “If a service or repair job has to be completed that evening, then there’s no question of the workshop shutting at 6.00pm sharp. The guys will work until the job is done.” Van owners can benefit from this no-nonsense approach if they so wish.

In a position to offer repair and maintenance contracts and support extended warranties, truck service departments can accommodate long-wheelbase high roof vans and light commercial chassis with Luton bodies. With space at a premium, some car service departments struggle to swallow them.


Fast & Pro

Butler and his colleagues appreciate, however, that light commercial owners have their own distinct needs that differ from the requirements of truck operators. That’s why Renault Trucks has launched its Fast & Pro programme.

Fast & Pro dealers have to install a dedicated light commercial service and repair bay staffed by appropriately trained fitters. Faults on a vehicle have to be diagnosed within two hours.

Dealers also have to make a particular commitment to developing van business in their area. In exchange they receive marketing support from Renault Trucks plus the ability to make certain special offers to customers; 50 per cent off selected option packages for example.

Seven dealerships have signed up to Fast & Pro so far with another two or three in the pipeline for this year. It’s worth noting incidentally that truck workshop labour rates tend to be lower than those charged by car workshops, which makes for lower bills.

With 40 dealers and a total of 63 service points, the Renault Trucks network is steadily strengthening. Norfolk Truck and Van signed up in 2009, with outlets in Norwich and Enfield, while last October saw Renault Trucks Coventry open. Its site represents a £4m investment.

Welch is opening a new dealership in Peterborough this year, R H Commercial Vehicles is set to open a new site in Leicester in May and Renault Trucks Cardiff is redeveloping its premises.

With loans hard to come by in the current economic climate, and overdrafts curtailed, companies can often struggle to finance the acquisition of vehicles. Happily Renault Trucks Finance is continuing to put packages together for customers. “It’s still in business, unlike some financial institutions,” remarks Renault Trucks managing director, Laurent Farman. “It’s not suffering from a funding squeeze at all,” adds Butler.

While his company’s share of the sector of the light commercial market in which it competes — 2.8 to 6.0 tonnes — is modest at present, Butler believes it will grow. “We take just 0.5 per cent so we’re barely scratching the surface,” he observes. On that basis, he suggests, the only way is up.



Nor is Master the only weapon in his armoury; Renault Trucks also markets Maxity, a rebadged version of Nissan’s Cabstar.

“We sell around 50 to 100 a year, and although it’s a niche product, we’ve no plans to drop it,” he says. “We expect demand for this sort of cab-over product to grow.” Maxity’s cab sits above rather than behind the engine.

One model is disappearing, however. Up until recently the Renault Trucks line-up encompassed Mascott, which grossed at from 3.5 to 6.5 tonnes. Production has now ceased.

Butler is optimistic that overall demand for 2.8 to 6.0 tonners will rise by 9.0 per cent this year, to 115,000 units, with Renault Trucks accounting for 0.7 per cent of registrations.

Buyers may have to get used to paying more for their vans, however, thanks to the weakness of the pound against the euro; something that affects all manufacturers. Some of them have already put up their prices significantly. They could rise further if the pound doesn’t strengthen.