Vauxhall prepares to move centre stage

Date: Monday, February 03, 2014   |   Author: James Dallas

Having spent some time out of the limelight the Luton-based manufacturer is planning to hit the headlines in 2014. James Dallas reports

Vauxhall’s Luton plant is gearing up to begin production of the second generation Vivaro in 2014 and the plan, according to CV brand manager Steve Bryant, is to unveil the new model at the CV Show in April, which Vauxhall has confirmed it will attend, having missed the event in 2013.

“We have been a strong supporter (of the CV Show),” says Bryant. “You can’t go every year, it’s the product that justifies being there.”

The Luton facility will build all Vivaro models for the UK and 18 mainland European markets – where it will be badged Opel Vivaro – apart from the niche high-roof van, which will be assembled at Renault’s factory in Sandouville, France.

The Renault Trafic and Nissan Primastar, which are basically re-badged Vivaros, will no longer be built at Luton, although Vauxhall says the joint venture with Renault will continue.

Vauxhall boss Duncan Aldred admits: “We will only build Vauxhall here so it will have a volume impact.”

Under the current arrangement Trafics accounted for around 30% of Luton’s output until the end of last year, with the Primastar also made in small numbers.

Vauxhall has invested £82m in readying the plant for the new Vivaro with almost half this sum going towards developing a new bodyshop in what was previously a storage warehouse.

The manufacturer has also spent £96m on the supply chain network, including £29m in the UK. It says 40% of parts for the new Vivaro will be sourced in the UK with more than half of these coming from within a 100-mile radius of Luton.

Vauxhall will tailor production volume to fit demand – about 55,000 vans will be churned out this year but the brand says numbers can be flexed up to 95,000 –which would match the high water mark reached in 2007.

Bryant says the Vivaro has been hugely important to Vauxhall, not just in sales and manufacturing terms, but in transforming the retail operation.

“The re-shaped network went hand-in-hand with the Vivaro. It put us on the map.”

The brand has 220 dealerships specialising in small vans (CorsaVan and Combo) and a further 120 specialising in large vans (Vivaro and Movano).

 

Cost matters

Vauxhall was the first manufacturer to offer designated eco-friendly models across its range, with the Ecoflex badge identifying the cleanest, most frugal models.

Further savings are available through the manufacturer’s “4x4” offer, which includes four years 0% finance, a four-year warranty, four-year breakdown assistance cover and four years’ free servicing.

With the Movano, which won the What Van? 2011 Van of the Year Award alongside the jointly-developed Renault Master, not yet due for a facelift, Bryant highlights the adoption of Euro6 emissions standards in September 2015 as the next challenge facing the heavy van segment.

With the need to inject AdBlue (a solution of urea) into the exhaust gas to reduce nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions, expected to generate additional costs, Bryant says Vauxhall is likely to wait until nearer the time the legislation goes live before introducing Euro6 models.

Vauxhall’s tumble to sixth place in the new van sales chart in the plate-change month of September raised eyebrows in the industry. Volkswagen may have taken it’s place as the second biggest LCV seller in the UK but the Luton-based manufacturer had remained a fixture in the top three. Apart from the focus on more lucrative retail business over high volume short-term rental deals, sales manager Richard Collier points out that the withdrawal of the AstraVan this year has hit volumes.

The brand built 5373 AstraVans at Ellesmere Port last year and with stocks running out, sales fell by 1032 to 1128 units over the first 10 months of the year.

“We’re disappointed not to have the AstraVan but we’re doing well in the other model lines,” Collier says.

He adds that the high profile launch of the Ford Transit Custom has delivered a sales spike for a direct rival and points out that the sector of the market to deliver the biggest sales rise this year – pick-ups – is one where Vauxhall is not represented.

The Combo is expected to take up much of the slack left by the AstraVan in the light van bracket and Vauxhall has announced that a high roof (L2H2) version is now available to order. It matches the XL derivative of the Doblo Cargo on which it is based and, like the Fiat, it has a load volume of 5.0m3 to go with a 1.0-tonne payload.

Fiat also offers a small pick-up version of its Doblo Cargo in the form of the Work-up and this remains a possible addition to the Combo range.

“We’re still looking into it,” Bryant says.

Vauxhall has responded to arch rival Ford’s recent launch of its Transit 24 service programme by drawing attention to its own MasterFit Premier Service Centre programme, which launched in 2010 and operates nationwide from more than 100 sites.

To minimise downtime the PSCs guarantee to book vans in for a service within 72 hours of an operator’s request for one, to carry out fault diagnosis or repairs that will take less than 90 minutes within an hour of the van’s arrival even without an appointment (within normal office hours) and, once diagnosed, to complete all repairs within 24 hours subject to parts availability. Invoices will then be sent out within five days.

In addition the PSCs offer fleet operators a collection and delivery service within a 10-mile radius – reducing to five miles within the M25.

 

Lofty conversion ambitions

Vauxhall has stepped up its involvement in the light commercial vehicle conversion market to take advantage of the stringent European Whole Vehicle Type Approval rules that are expected to reduce the number of bodybuilders in the market by up to 25%.

Bryant said conversions account for 35% of registrations in the 3.5-4.5- tonne commercial vehicle sector with the Movano providing the base for most Vauxhall conversions – half of which are tipper, boxside or dropside bodystyles, although the brand has recently announced the addition of a recognised 4x4 Movano conversion.

Says Bryant: “Recognised conversions are developed where the volume doesn’t warrant  a core model.”

Core conversions, which are developed ex-factory, feature in Vauxhall’s main brochures and price guides, fully covered by manufacturer warranty and already approved to EWVTA. Vauxhall now offers a range of 56 Movano core conversions compared to just 13 of the previous generation model. Recognised conversions cover more specialist applications and for these vehicles the body builder matches the Vauxhall warranty.

The brand is working with 10 converters who offer products under the new EWVTA rules. Current conversions, which are approved by Vauxhall engineers at the brand’s Specialist Vehicle Centre at Millbrook, include a Bott racking vehicle, Cold Consortium fridge van, Ingimex Luton box body, dropsied and tipper, Maxi-Low Luton box body and TGS car transporter.

 

 

 



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