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Baby Mercedes van to be called Citan

Date: 06 February 2012

Mercedes-Benz has confirmed that its new small van, based on the Renault Kangoo platform, is to be called Citan, will be sold in three sizes equivalent to the Kangoo's Compact, regular and Maxi lengths, and use Renault's range of engines.

The Citan will be revealed in April and go on sale in the UK early next year, with Mercedes-Benz UK vans boss Steve Bridge claiming it will be priced above, yet with a better whole-life cost than its donar vehicle.

"We will be more expensive, but the holding costs will be less than the Kangoo," said Bridge.

"It's far better to be able to compete on cost than on price. We will aim to have a more competitive contract hire rates than the Renault." Bridge did though say some customers aren't focused on what the vehicle is costing them to operate, so the firm is having to try and shift attitudes.

"Even some of the best buyers, sophisticated buyers, will only look at the front end price, it's what they're trained to do when buying things like toilet rolls so they use that behaviour and translate it to other operations," he said.

"They don't think about things like durability, we're changing years and years of culture."

Mercedes claims the Citan will be more than a re-nosed Kangoo, with changes to the sheet metalwork and a completely revised interior to make it a true Mercedes product.

The firm has also carried out large-scale work with the Citan's underpinnings, to bring the Kangoo up to the quality level required by Mercedes.

"We took the Renault vehicle and exposed it to our tests, and on the basis of the results we decided on the needs for action," said Mercedes' vice president of product engineering Dr Sascha Paasche. "We invested a lot to get the quality where we wanted and now we're verifying that we reached the targets."

Mercedes engineers will also be quality checking each vehicle as it comes down the line of the Renault plant in France that builds Kangoo.

The jump in volume coming from Mercedes' entrance to the light van market is set to push the brand to become the second biggest LCV seller, passing Volkswagen and Vauxhall, if Bridge's predictions come true.

"By 2016 we see ourselves as number two," he declared. "We would be 8000-10,000 units behind Ford if they stay where they are by 2016." Bridge though admitted that there would be some migration down from Vito, as some customers wanting a Mercedes-Benz van can now pick the Citan that better suits their needs.

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