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CV SHOW PREVIEW: Expectations high as show time nears

Date: 10 March 2011

The Commercial Vehicle Show returns to full size at Birmingham's NEC from 12-14 April with 304 exhibitors signed up. James Dallas previews some of the expected highlights

With the clock ticking down towards the launch of the 2011 CV Show, the momentum behind the revamped event is gathering pace. More than 300 companies involved in the sector have booked stand space, with the largest displays snapped up by leading vehicle manufacturers such as Renault, Ford and Mercedes-Benz.

Although one or two of the UK's pre-eminent van makers dragged their heels before committing to the show, by the time the organisers held a preview day in late February, there were only two significant absentees - Toyota and Vauxhall.

With new van sales jumping almost 50% in January, according to the SMMT, which is one of the show's owners together with the Road Haulage Association and the Society of Operations Engineers, market leader Ford added to the growing feeling of confidence in the industry by suggesting sales for the LCV sector overall this year could outstrip its own forecast.

Having previously anticipated a 5% rise on 2010's total of just under 223,000, Nigel Sharp, Ford of Britain's UK managing director, said he believed new van sales could increase by more than 12% to 250,000 this year.

"We are approaching 2011 with some confidence," said Sharp. "The size of the market each month in 2010 was stronger than our economic model predicted. This trend is continuing through 2011."

Alongside its much trumpeted new Ranger pick-up, Ford is to reveal the Euro5 version of its Transit at the Commercial Vehicle Show. More than any other model, the iconic panel van has been responsible for ensuring the Blue Oval's leadership of the CV market since its launch 45 years ago. Excluding the baby Transit Connect version, well over 46,000 mid- and large-sized Transits left showrooms in 2010, up 26% on the previous year.

Going forward, Ford is placing the emphasis on Econetic versions of the Transit, which the brand claims can deliver fuel consumption and CO2 emission reductions of at least 10%. It says the new 260SWB Econetic will offer fuel savings of £1077 over 80,000 miles compared with its Euro4 predecessor while the Econetic 2.0-tonne 350LWB rear-wheel drive will be £3680 cheaper than its non-Econetic equivalent over the same distance.

Boosting sales of Econetic Transits will help Ford meet the European Commission's range-average CO2 emissions targets for van manufacturers of 175g/km by 2017, falling to 147g/km by 2020.

Although Ford's smallest commercial vehicle, the Fiesta Van, is the only model on the market with sub-100g/km CO2 emissions, it only accounts for about 5% of the brand's sales; it is in the heavier segments where Ford dominates the market.

The company is also to display its all-electric Transit Connect BEV at the show. The zero-emission van goes on sale in the UK this summer. It has a range of 80 miles and a top speed of 75mph. With a cargo volume of 3.8cu/m and a payload of 410kg, Ford said the electric Connect would suit operators who travel short-range routes with frequent stop-and-go driving. The van will be sold by Ford's electric vehicle partner Azure Dynamics through a specially created network of dealerships.

But it is the new Ranger that is likely to steal the headlines. Ford CV boss Steve Clary lavished praise on the lifestyle-oriented pick-up that is the first commercial vehicle to come under the One Ford design banner.

"The interior is like the car range," he says. "At last it's worthy of carrying the blue oval. It's a major leap forward and unrivalled in the segment."

Space maker

Citroen will display its recently launched Euro5 Nemo range as part of its Top 10 Business Class line-up that will also include the Berlingo, Dispatch and Relay models.

Also on show will be the low-loading Relay-based Space Van, converted by Supertrucks, which has just joined the brand's Ready to Run programme. In standard specification the Space Van has a load deck height of 550mm and a step height of 370mm. But with optional rear air suspension its load deck goes down to 370mm and its step height lowers to just 190mm. The Space Van has 20.4cu/m load space and payload of 1300kg.

Supertruck's chairman Peter Wright says: "The Space Van is ideal for furniture manufacturers, removal contractors, bedding manufacturers, office equipment and computer suppliers." He adds the company has also supplied Space Vans to local authorities as glass carriers.

Racking and storage supplier Tevo is to launch its Modul-System Extendable drawer solution at the CV Show. Made in high-tensile strength steel and aluminium, Tevo says the system suits pick-ups and vans. It is based on the T-track frame introduced last year, which product marketing manager Adam Mayer describes as being "like Meccano".

He says the CV Show is good for business: "It's a good launch platform for our product - customers come for the vans and then see our racking. We get new business out of it. If we only attended one show this would be it."

Meanwhile, the main attraction on the Mercedes stand will be the UK debut of the Vito E-Cell. The model is already available in Berlin and Barcelona and, according to Mercedes: "It will go into blue-chip companies and fleets this year in small numbers." The Vito E-Cell is aimed at inner city operators and those wishing to reduce their carbon footprints.

Mercedes says that because new electric-vehicle technology is moving so fast there is a risk of it becoming obsolete. Therefore the manufacturer is not selling the Vito E-Cell but supplying it on a three-year lease deal.

"The risk of value loss is taken by Mercedes," a spokesman explains.

The electric Vito is built on the production line next to the regular derivatives at Mercedes' plant in Vitoria, Spain and can be serviced at the manufacturer's workshops by trained technicians. With no engine to carry, the Vito E-Cell retains a payload of one tonne.

Van parts specialist Multipart is to use the show to reinforce its support for the LDV range for which it retains 95% parts availability two years after the manufacturer went out of business.

Sales and marketing director John Cascone says: "The CV Show will get the message across of our confidence in LCV."

As part of its Save Your Van scheme, Multipart has reduced prices on parts through using lower-cost supply sources and adopted cost-saving repair techniques to enable operators to keep their LDV vans on the road.

Multipart will also announce a redevelopment of its all-makes van parts programme and showcase the Diesel Technic product range, which it took on last year. The company has recently strengthened its dealer network with appointments in Luton, Launceston and Frome.

As well as displaying its products, electric vehicle manufacturer Smith Electric Vehicles will offer advice on the installation of safety-compliant charging points.

And finally, hybrid-electric van supplier Ashwoods Automotive, producer of the Ashwoods Hybrid Transit, will make its CV Show debut this year. It will showcase its dashboard-based EcoDrive system, which it claims cuts fuel consumption by up to 10%. The system costs £12,854 new, which Ashwoods claims can be recouped within 30,000 miles.

Ashwoods Automotive boss Mark Roberts says: "With fuel prices rising, the time is right for technologies that save fleets money as well as lower CO2 emissions."

Isuzu takes the low road

Isuzu UK will display its line-up of five Rodeo pick-ups on its stand at the show. General manager William Brown points out that Ford, with its new Ranger, will be the only other brand exhibiting a pick-up at the NEC.

But Isuzu is targeting a different section of the market to the one the Blue Oval has set its sights on.

While rival brands clamber upmarket, Isuzu is disdaining the fashionable new wave to promote the Rodeo as the toughest working vehicle available in the sector.

"We are aimed at the commercial vehicle sector, not the lifestyle sector," says Brown. "Our vehicle is robust, it does what it says on the tin."

Brown adds that the rarity of warranty claims is testament to the Rodeo's durability.

Unlike rival pick-up manufacturers, which are keen to highlight the car-like characteristics of their products, Brown draws attention to the Rodeo's "truck DNA", which, he claims, make it the outstanding workhorse in the segment. The 2.5-litre Denver double cab, for example, costs £14,748 before VAT. With a 3.0-tonne towing capacity and a payload of 1075kg, Brown claims it leads the field as a load lugger. However, he points out that combined cycle fuel consumption of 34.9mpg and emissions of 213g/km are also best-in-class.

Last September Isuzu added an entry-level 3.0-litre Denver auto to its line-up, having acted on advice from its dealers that customers were not interested in a high-spec version. It costs £17,500 excluding VAT.

"It hasn't got chrome and leather seats," Brown says, "it's a functional, working vehicle."

Isuzu's usual route to targeting customers is through exhibiting at 25 county and forestry shows a year. Brown says farmers take 35% of sales with construction and utility firms taking a quarter.

In 2010 sales doubled to 2190 units pushing up the brand's share of the pick-up sector from 5% to 11%. Brown says sales to fleets of up to a dozen vehicles are increasing.

"We are the fastest growing pick-up business in the UK."