Saturday 4 February 2012

Road - New City Van from Merc

I was intending to write this up while sitting in the airport lounge in Stuttgart, but I wasn’t counting on the airline’s plans for personal disruption. I had just finished downloading the pics when the airport tannoy called my name and asked me to report to the ticket desk. My flight out was going to be late so I would miss the connection for Edinburgh. No problem, they changed flights and routed me through Brussels, so I went to another gate and a another waiting area. Then the Brussels flight was delayed!

Back to the ticket office where I had the choice of overnighting in Brussels for the first flight in the morning to Edinburgh, or back to the original plan and catch the earlier delayed flight to Heathrow and overnight there. No offence to the Belgians, but I would rather be amongst native English speakers, then I got to the Hotel expecting native English speakers – but that’s another story. Suffice to say, a Scottish accent probably does sound foreign to someone learning English and practicing on frustrated, tired, hungry, headached British travellers just seeking a bed and board for the night.

But that’s another story.
The Mercedes-Benz presentation of the new van was as slick as one would expect but took an unusual turn with a couple of oddball choice presentations from a futurologist (talking about the way goods will be delivered in the future) and a fascinating chat from a neurologist (who told us why we select what we do when purchasing and the value of ‘brand values’ as part of that process.

There was no other big surprise as most of the European LCV journalists were already aware of the collaboration between M-B and Renault, but they did try to explain their choice without showing us the actual vehicle, that will be revealed in April, but I’ve got a ‘spy shot’ which confirms that the new van will be based on the Renault Kangoo.

Naturally, this being M-B, it won’t simply be a re-badged job. Their engineers have already been in the French plant ensuring that German engineering standards will be applied to a van bearing a German company name. To that end, the drivetrain has already been modified, new parts substituted and a re-design of the interior implemented.
M-B also had half a dozen designers on hand with huge Apple Macs on which we were allowed to play with possible suggestions for a new front end treatment including grille, headlamp clusters, running lights, bumpers and grilles. That was fun, but served to highlight just how difficult designing an attractive front end for a van is, especially when faced with literally hundreds of options regarding style, shape, size and complexity.

At the end of the four hour presentation, Mercedes’ van boss, Volker Mornhinweg announced the name of the new van which had a wee surprise in  store since we were all thinking the name would have to start with a V and end with an O like, Vito, Viano, and Vaneo, but it didn’t the new City Van van will be called Citan.

And after all that we headed for the airport - and penury. As I said before, the life of a motoring journalist is about as glamorous as a wet weekend in Saltcoats.

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