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VW vans sets new record target

Date: 21 May 2007

Robert Hazelwood

VW's commercial vehicles division enjoyed a record year in 2006, but that hasn't stopped CV director Robert Hazelwood from listening to customer concerns in 2007 to get even better results. Tristan Young writes

Volkswagen commercial vehicles had a record-breaking 12 months last year and claims it is set to continue its success thanks to new customer research it's responding to.

"We've just done 400 customer interviews and found that it's not all about price. It's not even one of the first five indicators," says CV director Robert Hazelwood, who lists, in order, the first five reasons for buying a VW van as: "Value for money then cost of ownership, RVs, reliability and then brand dependability - if a customer misses a day of business then the impact on cost and their own brand is expensive."

Hazelwood says VW is working to address these customer demands: "To answer that survey we're just launching, for retail and small businesses, a subsidised lease with free servicing for three years across the entire range."

On top of answering specific issues VW has also recently separated its car and van dealers to provide a better focus on LCV sales.

"The decision to separate the vab dealers from the cars has helped - the product was always right and now the specialised network is right," says Hazelwood.

Corporate sales have not been ignored either: "Chris Blue has come over from the cars side to be our national fleet sales manager. We're aiming for two-thirds fleet sales and we're in line with that."

The recent 1000 Caddy deal with British Gas has contributed to helping achieve that target, and is partly why Hazelwood is predicting another record year for VW Commercial Vehicles.

"We had a sales record last year, just short of 27,000 vans, and this year we're aiming to sell 29,000, but it could be 30,000. That said we're not chasing volume in the market. It's all demand driven."

However, it could be that this record level of demand plus increasing order times puts people off buying a van. It's a problem other LCV makers, such as Ford, have already admitted they are trying to fix. So is VW worried its customers will go elsewhere? Hazelwood believes they will wait.

"We've had a record first quarter, we're sitting on an 8000 order bank, and we've always had a 4000 order bank all the way through last year," says Hazelwood. "In CV terms there's a need for a specific requirement so people wait. They won't wait forever, but at the moment it's okay."