Monday 8 June 2015

Road - Millbrook bound

If you think the Light Commercial Vehicle market is unimportant in the greater scale of the automotive industry. It isn’t. It is growing in importance every year and is more profitable per unit for the manufacturers than many of the cars they sell!

In fact the UK market is the second largest in the world for vans. Last year over 340,000 new vans were sold in the UK alone. So it is entirely understandable that some manufacturers make a great play for the van user.

Like Mercedes-Benz for instance. For the past 12 years the company has been running an annual event called ‘Van Experience’ to which they invite around 2,000 fleet buyers, users and owner operators over a period of two weeks to sample the full range of product. The event is also used to highlight new innovations like Start/Stop and Park Assist, automatic gearboxes and leather rimmed steering wheels, not to mention the huge technical and mechanical variety of the various models of Citan, new Vito and Sprinter ranges. In total, the company had over 250 demonstrator vehicles on site.

That represents quite an investment in time and resources. It also highlights just how much importance they attach to this event and to its customers.

And that means ‘hands-on’ experience. Everybody gets a chance to drive most products and it is all carefully stage managed and controlled by professional drivers.

Guess who I bumped into managing the fleet of 4x4 Sprinters at the Millbrook Proving Ground off-road course – one Mick Linford Esq. Old hands will recognise the name from the heady days of Peugeot Sport rallying in the UK when he worked with the legendary Des O’Dell. At least he’s earning an honest buck these days - ahead of his 65th birthday.

Oh, and by the way, I certainly didn’t see or hear the new McLaren P1 being tested around the 2 mile speed bowl or standing-start one mile runway. Gawd, it sounded magnificent, but as I said, I didn’t hear it or see it - officially!

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