Mercedes-Benz revealed the Mercedes Citan – their new baby van at a launch event in Germany today. Until now even the name of the van was shrouded in mystery – the company using a working title of City Van. The big reveal was of both the van and it’s name. It sounds as though the experts at Mercedes-Benz put together the word city and van and came up with Citan. They had their best team on that one. We are told, however that he name is, in fact, a combination of City and Titan.
The full day event revealed little about the van – which was noticeable by its absence. In place of a real van, journalists were treated to a view of a paper mâché mock-up with the lights in the room turned off. The model subject to the ‘reveal’ being covered back over when the lights came back on.
The information that was confirmed was that the base vehicle is indeed the Renault Kangoo, with the driveline intact. The van will be available in three lengths as a panel van, Combi and people version. Power will come from a choice of petrol and diesel units.
Although the van will be built alongside the Renault Kangoo on the same production line, the whole day-long media event was aimed at stressing hat the Citan has had the full Mercedes Benz treatment. According the to marketing blurb, it will be, “A fully fledged Mercedes-Benz on all fronts”. This means that, although the vehicle already existed as a Renault Kangoo, it was nonetheless put through the Mercedes-Benz development and testing programme using to the same standards as the Sprinter and Vito. In addition, a team from Mercedes-Benz will be based permanently at the factory to check every vehicle coming off the production line.
Given that the driveline will be almost identical to the Kangoo, Mercedes have had to focus on the internal and external appearance of their new small van plus some alterations to the suspension. The focus was on the parts they have to change to make it feel like a Mercedes to drive. The company stressed that there will be a number of safety improvements over the Kangoo, according to vans boss, Steve Bridge, “safety will be a large part of the positioning.” Unfortunately specifics of these changes were not forthcoming and we will all have to wait until April and the Amsterdam RAI show to see the van in the flesh.
UK customers will have to wait until the first quarter of 2013 to order the van. Customers will have to pay more to buy the Citan than the Kangoo, Mercedes are stressing that residuals should be higher and that the whole life costs should be competitive. Much will be made about the levels of skills of the dedicated Mercedes-Benz commercial. While dealerships with their extended opening hours and business-focused approach will appeal to operators that cannot afford to lose their van for a day to be serviced.
The company is hoping to use the Citan to springboard a new sales initiative to double their annual sales to become the second largest seller of vans in the UK by 2016. A bold objective, bearing in mind that VW have also set their sights on these heights with an extra model – the excellent Amarok – in their portfolio. Perhaps ultimately one of the German manufacturers will knock Ford from their 45 years at the top of the UK market with VW at the top and Mercedes in second place.