Commercial vehicle manufacturers are increasingly offering factory conversion programmes to their customers, providing custom build options previously only available from independent providers.
In recent weeks, DAF Trucks and Renault Trucks have begun advertising pre-built conversion models with an emphasis on immediate delivery. This bypasses the traditional process of a customer managing vehicle chassis and bodies from different suppliers. The DAF ‘Tip, Skip & Grab’ programme is mainly targeted at the burgeoning UK construction and utilities industries, for customers requiring urgent delivery.
Renault’s ‘Ready for Business’ programme offers pre-bodied Master LCVs with dropside, tipper or Luton bodies built by VFS in Hampshire and sold ready for immediate delivery through Renault dealers.
Meanwhile, Vauxhall has also been increasing its in-house conversion programmes over the past year, offering customers a wider range of body styles and fit-outs for their vehicles.
Vauxhall set up a conversions centre at Luton in 2014, not far from the Vivaro assembly line. The operation handles a variety of tasks for retail and fleet customers, from fitting alarm systems for local fleets to full Vivaro double-cab conversions for Vauxhall and Opel brands across Europe. The factory operates two shifts to keep up with demand, and has executed more than 9,000 conversions since opening last year.
Vauxhall is also placing an increased emphasis on its specialist bodies for the Movano chassis. Of the 5,000 Movano models it expects to sell this year, over 1,500 will be chassis cabs, which Vauxhall hopes will increase its share in the conversion market. Vauxhall offers dropside, tipper and box bodies as factory conversions, which are all covered by a manufacturer warranty. It also works with local body builders on specialist conversions, which ensure that the warranty is aligned with that o the manufacturer.
Outlining the benefits for customers, Richard Collier, Vauxhall Commercial Vehicle Sales Manager, said, “Logistically, the Luton conversion centre works well as products can be dispatched quickly to dealerships across the UK. Ancillary kit can be fitted in the conversion centre too, speeding up the process.”
DAF has been building vehicle bodies alongside its chassis for some time at its Leyland plant, and its LF model is available with a range of box and curtainside bodies, as well as tail-lifts and other accessories.
As reported in Transport News Brief’s recent feature, Leyland Trucks is currently producing six bodies a day for the DAF chassis, with a focus on rental companies and larger fleets whose requirements are not dissimilar.
EC Whole Vehicle Type Approval requirements have increased costs and complexity for conversion work, and factory conversion programmes can offer fleet operators an easier, cheaper and faster certification of vehicles. This has provided increased sales opportunities for manufacturers, but has also required them to warrant the conversion work as well as the base vehicle. Operators that require bespoke or complex fitouts are still more likely to need separate conversion or adaptation work to be completed after taking delivery of the vehicle from the dealership.