After a gestation period that would make an elephant look like Speedy Gonzales, the long-awaited replacement for LDV’s aging Pilot and Convoy vans has finally been unveiled.
The new Maxus range is the result of five years hard work and £500 million of money and the story behind the launch is almost as fascinating as the finished product itself.
LDV, Britain’s only dedicated van manufacturer, came into being in 1993 after a management buyout and it soon became obvious that replacements were needed for the aging Pilot and Convoy.
After a long search, LDV finally teamed up with Korean manufacturing giant Daewoo and the Maxus range began to take shape. However, disaster loomed when the Daewoo parent company went bankrupt at the turn of the century and LDV faced the prospect of losing its new baby.
But when General Motors bought out Daewoo, bosses weren’t interested in the new van and the project was handed over to LDV.
With the rights to the Maxus now firmly in British hands, the next task was to bring the tooling to this country.
Daewoo had planned to build its model in Poland and it was up to LDV bosses to buy up the equipment and ship it over to England.
In the past two years, LDV has been playing cat and mouse with the world’s van press.
At the CV Show in March 2003, the van made its first public appearance but was half hidden under an army camouflage net.
The following year, chief executive Allen Amey officially unveiled the as yet unnamed van again, but this time it was packaged behind a wobbly Perspex screen, so no-one could photograph it properly.
Dark words were muttered among Britain’s van journalists and some even suggested that maybe LDV didn’t actually have a van to launch.
All these fears were finally dispelled on January 19, when – with a huge fanfare of trumpets – the press was let loose on the new Maxus at a launch in Rotherham, ahead of the range going on sale later in the month.
No-one at LDV is under any illusions about the importance of the new Maxus.
Its old vans are hopelessly outperformed by some of the hot new opposition and although LDV has a loyal customer base, its sales team will have a hard task persuading fleets who run Ford Transits and Mercedes-Benz Sprinters to try this new home-grown product.
Putting it bluntly, the new Maxus will make or break LDV.
From launch there will be two wheelbases, gross vehicle weights of between 2.8 tonnes and 3.5 tonnes and three roof heights.
Minibus and chassis cab versions are planned for the following year but fleets wanting these models will still be able to buy them in the old Convoy format.
Load volumes range from seven cubic metres to 11.4 cubic metres and payloads range from 917kg to 1,616kg.
The vans – all front wheel drive – will be powered by Italian VM 2.5-litre common rail turbodiesel engines as seen in vehicles such as the Jeep Cherokee and Voyager.
There will be two power outputs – 95bhp and 120bhp – and a 140bhp version will follow later in the year.
Standard equipment will include power steering, driver’s airbag, electric windows and mirrors, a CD player, driver and passenger seatbelt pre-tensioners, remote plip locking, engine immobiliser, height adjustable driver’s seat, tachometer and a pollen filter, while paid-for extras include ABS brakes, a passenger airbag, alarm, slamlocks in the rear, plywood flooring and trim, a fully adjustable driver’s seat with lumbar adjustment and full steel bulkhead.
Warranty is either three years/100,000 miles or four years/60,000 miles and servicing intervals are 20,000 miles.
Prices range from £12,995 to £18,495 ex-VAT.
Speaking at the launch of the Maxus range, LDV chief executive Allen Amey said: ‘This vehicle will compete head-on with the best in the industry for years to come.
'Our customers will benefit from unrivalled performance across every aspect of our business.
'From product specifications to factory-fit option programmes, service and parts back-up bespoke warranty programmes and an unrivalled dealer network. LDV now has a totally new range of LCVs developed to set a new benchmark in the industry.’
Sales and marketing executive director Tony Lewis added: ‘The LDV Maxus is a British manufacturing triumph – one that the whole team is proud of.
'Our aim now is to use our new range to reach professionals throughout the UK and Europe.
‘We are extremely proud to be part of this industry and want to now challenge the over-hyped stereotype of the UK van operator as either a cowboy or white van man and elevate how our industry is currently perceived.
'We are all dedicated professionals and we know that operators are highly professional in their own right.