If you’re in the market for a new van and have never bought one before, or are currently running an ageing workhorse and are considering a replacement, then what sort of a service are you likely to expect from your LCV retailer?
Prepare to be surprised, and in a good way.
The car brands have taken a fresh look at the way they sell light commercials. Most have concluded that having a new van tucked into the far corner of the showroom isn’t really the way to appeal to buyers who, after all, are consumers too and expect some showroom schmoozing, attention and a decent cappuccino.
With this in mind, The Van Expert has rounded up some of the best sales initiatives around at the moment aimed at making the van buying and owning experience a little bit special.
The LCV market leader realised the importance of differentiating its van proposition when Ford opened a network of 105 specialist Transit Centres nationwide in 2015, with the brand claiming 95% of the population live just 45 minutes from the nearest centre.
All centres offer Ford’s Transit24 extended opening hours of 07.30 to 18.30 every weekday, and they’re also open Saturday mornings. Owners can also benefit from late night servicing on Thursdays with vehicles dropped off by 16.00 ready for collection on Friday at 10.00.
All centres aim to ensure that repairs are turned around within 24 hours wherever possible.
More recently, Ford gave some thought to one of the big modern conundrums: how can to get hold of a van for a few hours to transport bulky pieces of furniture, collect oversized shopping, or even move house.
The company has partnered with Hertz to offer the Hertz 24/7 hourly van hire service via the FordPass app with prices starting at just £13 an hour. The vans are located at superstores across the country including B&Q, Bunnings, Costco and IKEA.
Mercedes Benz Vans has a standalone network with 116 sites across the UK, offering a specialist service to van buyers and owners.
In an industry first, the brand opened a pop-up store at the Intu Trafford Centre, Manchester, in February 2018, in the coveted spot next to the Apple Store. While pop-up stores are a trendy way of showing off new cars, this is the first time a manufacturer has displayed its light commercial vehicles in a shopping centre.
Ostensibly a showcase for the new Mercedes X-Class pickup, it is also being used to show off other lifestyle vehicles like the Marco Polo camper van and Vito Sport crew van, which can all be test-driven, along with other Mercedes vans, from the mall.
The pop-up store also features a configurator for customers to choose and specify a new van and provides online access to Mercedes’ used van stock locator.
The brand has also expanded its servicing options with the launch of My Van Service, an online service enabling owners to book vehicles in for work at a time to suit them. This includes an overnight option whereby vehicles can be serviced outside of the working day and collected the following morning before 09.00.
Last year, Peugeot rebooted its approach to van retailing with a more focused approach to addressing the needs of small to large businesses (running 1 to 49 vehicles) through its dealer network. The first step was to expand the number of specialist business centres from 50 to 70, each with designated van specialists.
These business centres are expected to work around customer demand to minimise vehicle downtime which means they will open early or stay open late to complete servicing jobs; an acknowledgement that customers cannot operate their businesses without their vehicle.
Meanwhile, the rest of the Peugeot dealer network is now expected to display at least one van and to have trained staff on hand to go through finance and tax options for prospective customers.
Citroën is in the throes of rolling out some new services for its van customers and has given The Van Expert a sneak preview of its plans.
The company is keen to give customers as much flexibility as possible in the way they can interact with retailers, so the new initiatives include a return to basics by enabling them to carry out more transactions over the phone, reflecting the way that they carry out other business transactions during their working day.
Also, recognising just how busy their customers are, test drives will be offered at home or business addresses. Some Citroën dealers already offer this service, but the intention is to roll it out across the network.
All van brands have special promotional offers to entice buyers into showrooms, but one of the best of the current batch is Vauxhall’s 4-in-1 deal.
If you’re thinking of buying a Vauxhall van before 2 April 2018 then you’ll benefit from a bundle providing four years’ 0% APR finance, four years free servicing, four years roadside assistance and four years warranty.
It’s a pretty comprehensive offer available Vauxhall’s Corsavan, Combo, Vivaro and Movano models.
Back in 1998, Volkswagen set up a dedicated network of van centres as the result of acknowledging that its expanding line-up needed specialist facilities and because its showrooms were getting rather full of new cars as the brand entered new market sectors.
Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles operates a network of 72 specialist van centres, with some standalone sites and others located alongside car dealerships. All offer a distinct service aimed at keeping customers on the move.
Extended hours for servicing work is a big issue in the commercial vehicle sector, where time really is money, and VW rolled out a service in 2017 across all its dealers and 25 Authorised Repairer centres.
These extended hours range from workshops opening either 13 or 16 hours a day for three days a week. Other sites provide customers with out of hours drop-off facilities up to 8pm with collection early the following day. Meanwhile, 10 centres currently offer customers a mobile servicing facility. This will be extended to 20 by the end of 2018.
For customers buying new and used vans through the VW network, they now have access to an online configurator which has just been expanded to include a finance calculator; recognition that powerful online tools need not be restricted to car buyers.
This new tool allows customers to obtain personalised finance examples online and adjust variables, such as term and deposit, before completing their purchase at a Van Centre.
Our favourite service though is the one offered by VW Van Service in Durham where customers waiting for their vehicles can enjoy a complimentary breakfast or lunch in a brand-new diner-style café. Alternatively, if customers fancy some exercise whilst they’re waiting then the site also has some courtesy bicycles.