VW Commercial Vehicles are planning to expand their existing network of 73 van centres to a total of 80 – ideally by the end of 2012. In addition, Europe’s number one van maker would like a further eighteen service points, bringing the total to 45.
The increase comes on the back of five new van centre openings in 2011.
Although VW are already in discussions with a number of partners for the gapes in their network, Director of commercial vehicles, Alex Smith told us, “we are not proactively seeking new partners but we never close the door and would be pleased to hear from potential van sales and service centres that already offer brilliant technical service with high customer satisfaction.”
The connection with MAN and Scania has yet to influence any policy making regarding choice of dealer partner, Smith again, “we have received no directive from Germany about cooperation with the truck businesses, although if they applied for a franchise we would look at the business as we would any other.
It is clear from VW that they believe standalone van centres are the way forward, according to Smith, “there is a strong business case for standalone van centres.”
In Buckinghamshire, Citygate have opened the largest dedicated VW van centre in Europe and the figures appear to support the company’s view. In the first four months of moving from a shared site 3.6 miles down the road to the dedicated centre, used sales have more than doubled and parts sales through the service vehicle sales departments increased from £37,000 in March 2011 to £51,500 in March this year.
The impressive location holds six vans in the showroom, with outside storage for many more, ten workshop bays, including class 7 MoT and five 5 tonne lifts. Most attention to detail has been afforded to the customer facing area – if you are hoping to attract and keep a customer about to spend £50,000 on a VW California then you probably do need “Scottish Sea Kelp” soap in the toilets. According to Smith, the challenge is, “improving retail outlets to appeal to buyers of California and Caravelle. We can’t really sell these specialist vehicles through car outlets, as there are often space issues – plus these vehicles require specialist sales expertise.
VW’s strategy appears to be working overall, as their market share has increased from 9% in 2007 to 13.2% in 2011 with figures for the first quarter of 2012 higher still with more than 5,000 vans registered in March – the highest figure ever for VW and the biggest month for any country in the VW group outside of the Fatherland. There is still some way to go to reach the European-wide share which stands at an impressive 16.6%.
Much of the UK growth was down to the VW Caddy, which claimed a massive 21% of its market in 2011, compared to just 9% in 2007. The Amarok could have helped more, but until production starts in Hanover, the smaller number of Argentinean imported versions will do little to supply the three to five month Amarok waiting list.
Smith sums up the mood as he sees it at VW, “we are in a smiley mood.” Hopefully this won’t be frowned upon by serious German bosses.