Mercedes-Benz believes a new compact van will help it overtake Vauxhall in the LCV market in the UK within four years.
The firm’s first ever small van – named Citan (an amalgam of city and titan) and due on sale in the UK in the first quarter of 2013 – is a reworked Renault Kangoo, but as the drawings show, its looks are far removed from the French offering.
Around 45% of LCVs sold in Europe are small vans and as Mercedes-Benz at present does not have one in its range the company is missing out on the opportunity to pitch for almost half the business available.
At the launch of the Citan in Stuttgart, Mercedes-Benz UK van sales and marketing director Steve Bridge was in a bullish mood at the prospect of a whole new area of fleet business which is about to open up to him.
He told Fleet News: “At present we don’t have a small van to sell and this puts us at a disadvantage as a lot of fleets want solus deals which include large and small vehicles.
“Bearing in mind that we are already in fourth place in the sales charts as of the end of 2011 without a small van, I confidently predict that by 2016 we will overtake Vauxhall to take the second place slot behind Ford.”
Mercedes invited hundreds of journalists to a “symposium” at its R&D headquarters but gave only a glimpse of the Citan, due for launch by the end of the year.
In the conference centre, the van was covered in a large sheet and at the culmination of the event, when the sheet was ceremoniously removed, it turned out that the vehicle was covered in yet another thinner sheet, so as yet no-one outside Mercedes-Benz has actually seen the Citan.
Although much of the van’s specification and design are still to be confirmed, it will be closely related to the current Renault Kangoo, but the top brass present were keen to point out a number of changes would be made to create the Citan – although they declined to say exactly what they were.
So what do we actually know about the Citan?
Firstly, it will be built on the Kangoo platform and there will be three lengths and two gross vehicle weights. It will be offered in panel van, crewbus or Mixto variants.
Power will come from Renault’s tried and trusted dCi diesel powerplant range and there will be a petrol version too, although that may not reach the UK. The diesel will be offered with a fuel-saving BlueEfficiency package, and a version powered by an electric motor is being planned.
Electronic stability control will be standard across the range and Mercedes-Benz will be adding its own dashboard and seats. There will also be changes underneath to distinguish the handling and ride characteristics from the Renault.
The van will make its media debut at an event around the RAI Show in Amsterdam in April, with a formal public unveiling at the IAA in Hannover in September.