2014 CV Show reveals much about Britain’s economic outlook, and its all positive says Keith Read
If the 2014 Commercial Vehicle Show at Birmingham’s National Exhibition Centre – and the industry it showcases – are barometers of the economic outlook, then Britain truly is on the up! And this was corroborated by no lesser witnesses than Mercedes-Benz duo, Micheal Kamper, managing director, trucks and Steve Bridge, managing director, vans. ‘Awesome’ and ‘brilliant’ were words they used to describe sales in the UK since last year’s CV show, with 9,500 trucks and 30,000 vans – all with the three-pointed star emblem – added to our roads.
Demand for some models is even outstripping supply with back-orders – something Merc’s not seen since 2007 – and the company recording its fifth consecutive quarter of year-on-year growth. To underline just how important the CV Show is, Merc not only had 13 vehicles (from Citan to the Actros SLT four-axle tractor capable of hauling 250 tonnes) on its stand, it had a further 37 outside Hall 5, in what is normally the VIP car parking area to display every model available in its range.
For Renault and Vauxhall the show afforded the opportunity to reveal for the first time the new all-new Trafic and Vivaro, designed, engineered and developed under their long-running joint-venture agreement. Renault’s LCV range director, Nicholas Guiochet – over from Paris for the unveiling – said success of the new Trafic in the UK is crucial for Renault since it is the model’s market outside France: “A lot is at stake,” he added.
Vauxhall’s boss, Tim Tozer, said Vivaro – built in Luton, the only UK’s only van factory – was now 40% British by value compared to the out-going model’s 25% home content. Production is expected to reach 55,000 a year with just over half being exported.
Renault’s Master and Vauxhall’s Movano (also part of the joint-venture agreement) have both benefited from engine and equipment upgrades announced at the show.
Meanwhile, only one of the three new vans – Relay, Boxer and Ducato – produced under the similar PSA/Fiat joint-venture – was on show at the NEC, with Citroen staging a classic exhibition-stand ‘world premier’ of its new Relay. Jeremy Smith, Citroen’s new head of LCVs, announced that production would start in June, dealers will start taking orders in July and vehicles will be available before the September registration-plate change.
Peugeot and its new Boxer were – like Volkswagen – absentees at this year’s show, while Fiat Professional showed the Ducato, albeit the outgoing model, in the new, flagship ‘Sportivo’ trim level available across its LCV range. Alloy wheels, uprated engines, colour-painted bumpers and side-stripes identify Sportivo versions, which became available immediately after the three-day show.
After a hectic 20-month renewal of its entire range – with just the Courier to come – Ford tried out a new technique at this year’s CV Show. Fleet customers were able to test-drive examples of Transit Custom, Connect, 2-tonne and even the Courier, around the NEC’s road network. Demonstration models were available from a side door close to Ford’s stand. “We did so well here last year by treating the NEC as a sales show that we decided to extend the selling aspect this year,” explained spokesman, Dan Jones. “Our entire fleet sales team is on duty here this year.”
Isuzu Truck and Isuzu Pick-up – independent companies in the UK – again chose adjoining stands. “We find it works very well. After all, we do have some joint dealerships,” said Isuzu Truck marketing director, Keith Child. Isuzu Pick-up’s Steve Eardly pointed out that it was particularly convenient for the Isuzu VIPs from Japan visiting the show. They, and other visitors, saw the new Euro 6 models on the truck stand and some interesting conversions on D-Max pick-ups including a cherry-picker and a 4x4 fire brigade response vehicle. Isuzu trucks employ EGR, AdBlue and a DPF to achieve Euro 6 while returning improved fuel economy over Euro 5 models.
The NEC Show is not just about vans and trucks. In a vibrant and bustling exhibition embracing every aspect of the road transport industry’s requirements including electric vehicles from Nissan and others – the growth of telematics and IT-based infrastructure was particularly evident this year with scores of fleet management and computer software providers showing how technology can increase efficiency, reduce operating costs and enhance safety. “Road transport has left behind its oily-rag image and is now a firmly IT-driven industry,” said Mike Hawes, chief executive of the SMMT which, with the RHA and IRTE, organises the CV Show.