Industry spotlight: SMMT

The relationship between the people who make vans and the people who operate them has historically been an uneasy one.

On the one hand are the manufacturers who pay millions of pounds in R&D costs to improve their products, while also facing an ever-increasing mountain of costly EU legislation and a continual buffeting from the vagaries of the international money markets.

On the other hand sit the fleet operators who complain about increasing front-end prices, high running costs and sometimes questionable vehicle reliability.

Meanwhile, in the middle sit the franchised dealers who do their best to fend off vehement criticism when something goes wrong.

But a new phenomenon is emerging – a single coherent light commercial vehicle industry joining the two opposing sides with a voice that carries weight and a degree of professionalism that used only to be dreamt of.

Look back to the year 2001 and we see that the van industry as a credible force hardly existed at all.

LCVs on fleets were largely lumped in with cars or heavier commercial vehicles, white van man was being roundly castigated and health and safety concerns were largely ignored.

In the intervening years, there has been a gradual realisation on the part of both van manufacturers and operators that, like it or not, their fate is inextricably linked.

So to join together to form a single unit seems the obvious step.

One of the major figures helping to mould this new, vibrant band of LCV heroes is Nigel Base, who joined the Society of Motor Manufacturers (SMMT) last year as commercial vehicle manager.

And it is largely due to his drive and enthusiasm that many up-until-now disconnected groups are banding together to make their voices heard.

A clear vision

Base has spent a lifetime in the transport industry, including spells at BRS, Scania and Azure Dynamics and he still retains a Class 1 HGV licence.

And he has a very clear vision of what he wants to achieve in his position at the SMMT.

In an exclusive interview with Fleet Van, he says: “The truck manufacturers historically dominated the CV side of the SMMT, but with around 50,000 trucks a year sold in the UK and 300,000 vans sold, I soon realised that the van side was under-represented.

"This is something I have been working hard to put right, although there is still some way to go.”

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