Standing among a highly-polished line-up of Citans, Vitos and Sprinters on the Mercedes-Benz stand at this year’s Commercial Vehicle Show, Steve Bridge is nevertheless acutely conscious that success in the light commercial vehicle market is not just down to product. As UK Managing Director of the newly-formed Mercedes-Benz Vans division, he is acutely aware that dealer support is equally important; and he and his colleagues are taking steps to bolster what the network has to offer.
Earlier this year they launched the VanProCenter programme. To be accredited as a VanProCenter outlet, a dealership must meet upwards of 50 standards covering areas such as staff training, the stocking and display of used vans. Bridge is eager to see all dealers expand their used activities – and the availability of demonstrators. Two sites have already been accredited and the rest of the 85-depot-plus network should receive certification by the end of December.
“It won’t be a walk in the park for them to obtain it however,” Bridge warns. “They’re going to have to work for it and they will be subject to an annual audit in order to retain it.”
At the same time the firm is also launching the Van Talent Development Programme. A two-year scheme that will admit 60 trainees this year, it aims to strengthen sales and marketing skills across the network. Successful completion will result in the award of Level 3 diploma from the Institute of Sales and Marketing Management to the individual concerned.
None of this is to suggest that product is unimportant of course. The latest Sprinter has only recently arrived, Citan represents Mercedes-Benz’s first foray into the light van market and is steadily winning customers and Bridge is looking forward to the arrival of an all-new Vito in UK dealerships in March 2015.
Before that however Mercedes will be unveiling a line-up of ready-to-go-to-work special conversions during the second half of this year. The majority will be produced by UK body builders.