Mercedes-Benz is developing a “CV strategy joined up between truck and van” as part of its attempts to move annual UK LCV registrations from 25,000 a year in 2011 to 50,000 by 2016, based on the market growing by 5% year-on-year.

“If a franchised dealer partner is used to and capable of looking after HGVs, maybe the location isn’t optimal but the opening hours, skill of technical and training is robust,” Mercedes’ UK commercial vehicle boss Michael Kamper told What Van? “We have identified a long-term strategic plan with HGV and LCV to grow organically, and those dealers and dealer groups need to invest in workshop capacity, technicians, training and parts availability.”

Kamper said the network will expand to cope with the additional volume, but with the existing dealers taking on new sites. “The strategic plan will step up by putting more dots on the map, it’s not a matter of taking on new partners,” he said.

Key focus to achieve the volume growth is the revised Sprinter that recently hit the market, and the new Citan small van versus the Volkswagen Caddy and new Ford Transit Connect, and the Vito medium van against the Volkswagen Transporter.

But Kamper is aware of the difficulty in taking contracts away from rival firms. “A supplier partner is always a long-term partnership and I would be the first to recognise this with a competitor of mine; the feeling needs to be strong to move from one tried and tested product to another,” he explained. “It’s the human side, you have to earn trust, which is a marathon run with hurdles, not a sprint.

“Once the foundation is laid and you have demonstrated your sales and aftersales capability on a local and national level, not until then will you be able to demonstrate things like fuel consumption, it’s meaningless if the aftersales is rubbish” Kamper continued. “That’s why our 100+ dealer-employed sales people and sales managers need to understand how to give better customer relationship management, in the long-term the product is secondary.”