The build quality and reliability of light commercial vehicles has come on in such leaps and bounds in the past 20 years that it is becoming harder to create clear differentiation.
But what is not equal is the service that fleet buyers receive when something goes wrong or when something needs fixing.
Manufacturers which are allied to heavy truck makers can offer the kind of 24/7 service that just isn’t available anywhere else – and it’s a benefit that isn’t always appreciated by fleet operators.
Iveco UK’s new managing director Luca Sra is only too aware of this fact and he has launched a new mission to enlighten Britain’s van operators as to how they can stay on the road longer by choosing a van/truck maker rather than a van/car builder.
Sra told Fleet Van: “Iveco is a very different firm from the one it was 20 years ago and we need to tell fleet buyers this.
“Our task is to exceed the levels of service that fleet operators expect and we are focusing on customer service, putting it at the very heart of everything we do.
“Our message is getting across as so far this year in a 3.5-tonne market down 6.9% our sales of the Daily are up 15%.”
So exactly what do van operators get out of allying themselves with a truck maker?
For starters, extended opening hours, into evenings and over weekends, is more common, which means vans can be serviced or repaired while they are not in use.
Iveco reckons that it offers something a little bit special when it comes to handling breakdowns.
Alan Coppin, Iveco UK’s customer care and technical services director, said: “Breakdown calls go to our centre in Turin and are answered by people who speak perfect English. Just in case of a problem the calls are monitored by our team in Cheshire, who can take over if necessary.
“Once a breakdown has been reported, an Iveco van carrying spares will be dispatched and on average will arrive in 52 minutes. Of all the breakdowns we attend, 81% are fixed by the roadside and are back in operation within two hours. Of those which have to be taken into the garage, 87% are back on the road within 24 hours.”
It is the fact that Iveco sends its own breakdown teams out that is important as some manufacturers that are allied to carmakers will dispatch an engineer from conventional breakdown services such as the AA and RAC, who are much more likely to have the vehicle towed to a garage for repairs as they don’t carry specialist parts.
Coppin told Fleet Van: “We have created a massive difference between us and other manufacturers in the service we offer customers. Vans are carrying valuable cargoes much of the time which need delivering on time.
“Our roadside assistance is best in class as we realise that fleet operators don’t just want their vehicles to be recovered – they want them working again – and that’s what we can do in the majority of cases.”
Key to maximising uptime for van operators is Iveco’s parts operation – and it has been investing a lot of money in it lately. Any parts ordered by dealers up until 9pm will be guaranteed to arrive by 8am the next day and the centre in Cheshire holds £10 million worth of spares, with 185 employees on site.
Iveco is also investing heavily in its apprenticeship and training schemes. A new training centre was opened in September 2011 at Winsford.
Kevan Woodier, Iveco’s training manager, is responsible for a team of four full-time trainers on-site who deliver training to more than 1,500 people.
He said: “This new facility takes our training capabilities to a whole new level. It reflects the importance Iveco places on delivering the highest standards of training to our own staff, dealers
Training ranges from foundation level electrical and diagnostics courses to more advanced classes covering refrigerant handling and preventative maintenance techniques, as well as specialist courses for technicians servicing alternative-fuel and hybrid vehicles.
Sra added: “The thing van fleet buyers should bear in mind is that they get the same level of service as truck buyers – and that’s a boast few manufacturers in the UK can make.”
By Trevor Gehlcken