The start of 2017 will see Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles bring their brand new Crafter to the UK market. This signals a significant change ahead for the Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles network.
According to Director, Carl zu Dohna, the business has to make some changes in order to best serve the new segments where Volkswagen CV has been unable to compete fully with their existing, ”Sprinter-based” offering.
Zu Dohna comments, “We are making changes to the network, people, and processes to be ready for a new type of customer.”
This means that Volkswagen are serious about gaining large fleet business, not only by delivering the right product, but also through their service offering, competing against Mercedes-Benz with their truck and van network that regularly opens 24 hours for servicing.
However, it’s not just the arrival of the new heavy van that is incentivising VW to make the changes to network opening hours. Zu Dohna explains further, “Between 2009 and 2015 Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles has doubled in vehicle sales volume and, since we believe that we have the right sized network, we need to increase opening hours to meet the demand and maintain service levels.”
A looming threat to the Volkswagen dealers if they do not offer extended opening hours is the potential loss of van sales and servicing to the spectre of the MAN truck network that we be selling their version of the new Crafter, branded the TGE, from 2017 as well.
According to Zu Dohna, “The Volkswagen Commercial Vehicle dealers are pragmatic about the Crafter being sold as a MAN product. We have to do our stuff right and prepare the dealers, keeping existing customers and gaining new ones.”
Indeed, some dealers are already VW and MAN franchise holders; Cordwallis in Heathrow is an example. Zu Dohna believes that it is useful to have insight from their ‘truck focused’ dealers, as well as the franchises that are also ‘car dealers’.
The Volkswagen network are gearing up for the upcoming fleet sales initiative with a dedicated Head of Business, plus a Business Development Manager in each van centre. It is the Business Development Managers’ role to target the smaller fleet business of up to 100 vans, freeing the head office fleet teams to concentrate on the larger accounts.
There are still a couple of open points in the VW Commercial Vehicles network, but the total of 72 dealers and 24 authorised repairers are close to VW’s ideal number.
‘Uptime’ is a phrase that is being close to worn out in the truck industry, but is seldom heard when talking about light commercial vehicles. Volkswagen have now adopted the term with a view to minimising the amount of time a vehicle and operator spends at the dealership.
Initiatives include new processes to manage what happens after a vehicle breakdown, plus new processes for courtesy vehicles. A new online service booking system means that van owners can book the vehicle in when it suits them, and they will also receive an online visual health check video using the CitNow system.
However, the most important changes relate to the extension of opening hours. VW Commercial Vehicles had been running a pilot scheme in the last quarter of 2015 to determine the benefits of extended opening hours, with guidelines of 6am to 10pm during the week, and 8am to 5pm on Saturdays.
The changes to opening hours will not take place across the entire network, but be driven by local demand, as well as planning regulations.
For example, JCT600 has added a night shift to their servicing facility and has been able to double the capacity instantly, reducing the waiting time from five to two days.
According to Trevor Hodgson Phillips, VW Commercial Vehicles’ Head of Service and Parts, extended opening hours has been seen as a benefit to the employees – in the JCT600 example it was the dealer team that suggested the second shift. For workers with families, a typical 9-5 working day is not suitable, so a flexible approach often goes down well.
Take a Tablet
Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles have developed a new sales tool running on an iPad that has been designed to assist the BDM in tailoring presentations to each customer. With a small number of clicks, the presentation, which can be easily emailed, can cover all areas of interest for the customer, from finance to service packages and model overviews.
In addition to the presenting ability, the iPad also arms the BDM with all the information needed to respond accurately and speedily to any customer request – be it about weights, dimensions, power outputs, or standard fitments and optional accessories across the range. Since December last year, twenty van centres have been piloting the devices – the review is scheduled to be completed at the beginning of March, with the intention to roll out the system across the network by the end of this year.
The Emissions Saga
Only sales of the Caddy suffered at the end of 2015, as it was the only VW van to be significantly affected by the ‘dodgy’ software at Euro 5. So on top of the model changeover, an immediate move to Euro 6 was needed. Sales fell by around 1,000 units to 13,353.
There is now a fix approved for the 76,000 commercial vehicles affected – this is a 30 minute software upgrade and airflow transformer installed. VW are currently carrying out a capacity planning exercise with the network, with the changes applied to the relatively small number of Amaroks affected, and the Caddy fixes taking place afterwards.
The New Crafter
Very few details have been released about the new vehicle, although the new factory is taking shape and will be making the first pre-production models soon. The first official glimpse of the vehicle will take place at the IAA in Hanover in September this year, but will not reach the UK shores in right hand drive form until 2017.
Of course, it is not the first time Volkswagen have made their own heavier van – it was only relatively recently in 1996 that the Mercedes-Benz built second generation LT (rebranded the Crafter in 2006), took over from VW’s original LT range which was first launched back in 1975.