Crewe-based ice cream van manufacturer Whitby Morrison has taken delivery of 55 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 314 CDI chassis cabs to build ice cream bodies onto.
Whitby Morrison builds ice cream bodies for various makes of new and pre-owned van chassis, although most of the 85-plus ice cream vans that leave the company’s factory each year are based on 3.5-tonne Sprinter chassis cabs, although it also builds occasionally on 5.0-tonne variants.
Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, Whitby Morrison’s 2020 order for 55 from East Midlands Mercedes-Benz dealer Mertrux Truck & Van is roughly in line with previous years.
Operations director Ed Whitby said that in the unprecedented circumstances caused by the pandemic, Whitby Morrison’s order book had held up remarkably well: “Covid has had an huge impact on our industry, given that virtually every outdoor event, from concerts and county shows, to fairs and festivals, has been either postponed or cancelled completely,” he says.
“What we saw, though, in the period between March and September when ice cream van operators tend to make their money, was something of a return to the 1970s – so instead of parking up at the same location for several days at a time, many of our customers were back on the streets and selling delicious, freshly pulled ice cream right outside people’s homes.
“Of course, some operators have had a really tough time, which is very sad. For others, though, who’ve gone back to their roots, it’s worked brilliantly. There have been a lot more ice cream vans out and about in residential areas than in recent years, and that’s been really good to see.”
Whitby, whose grandfather Bryan Whitby established the family business in 1962, said the pandemic represented the greatest challenge it had ever faced. The company team had worked hard to maintain relationships and had together some highly attractive acquisition packages. “We’ve done all we can to support our customers, and they, in turn, have supported us,” he explained.
Whitby Morrison’s ice cream vans are hand-built and finished to meet each operator’s requirements, a process that usually takes six weeks. A new vehicle typically costs anything up to £85,000. “We design and manufacture a premium quality product,” said Whitby. “It represents a very substantial investment by our customer, so a really good chassis is essential. As far as we’re concerned, the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter is the best there is, and by a clear margin.
“The Sprinter leads the field in terms of everything from reliability and durability, to fuel-efficiency and safety. It’s also more comfortable than its competitors, particularly the latest model.”