Mercedes-Benz Citan hopes to rival Berlingo and Caddy in European fleet market
'It will give us access to customers we haven’t been able to get into before,' he said.
'Admittedly fleet registrations are onlylikely to account for 30% of Citan’s sales volume, but the greater abilityit gives Mercedes to fulfil one-badge ordersshould help increase fleet sales of Vito and Sprinter,' Burkhart said.
Nor should Citan’s own value to fleets be dismissed. He commented: 'Prominent companies we are talking to about it, include DHL,' he stated. One of the fruits of a joint venture between Renault and Daimler, Mercedes-Benz’s parent, Citan is based on a Kangoo platform, uses Renault diesel engines but has a significant Mercedes content. It includes a completely-restyled front,with a different grille, bumper, bonnet anddifferent headlamps, and a cab interior that is unique to the Three Pointed Star.
'The seats, steering and suspension tuning are all pure Mercedes,' said worldwide head of Mercedes-Benz’s van operation,Volker Mornhinweg. @[email protected]
To be built at the Renault plant at Maubeuge in France on the same assembly line as Kangoo, Citan will be marketed with one roof height, two gross weights and three overall lengths. Set to make its public debut at the IAA van and truck showin Hanover, Germany, in September, it will be marketed as a crew bus with rear seating accommodation plus a separate cargo area at the back, as well as in van guise,and handled solely through commercialvehicle dealerships.
'The mid-length model will be the volume seller and we should sell from 30,000 to 50,000 Citans in 2013, the vehicle’s first full year of availability,' Burkhart predicted. It may eventually be sold outside Europe.
To date Mercedes has only released the sketchiest of technical details, but Citan’s likely maximum load cube will be 4.0m3 with a likely maximum payload capacity of 800kg, depending on the model selected. ESP willbe fitted as standard, a low-CO2 BlueEfficiencymodel will be included in the line-up, petrol engines will be available and an electric model will be added to the range too.
Burkhart has doubts about the sales potential of electric vans at present however,despite the availability of the Vito ECELL and Renault’s introduction of the competitively-priced Kangoo Van Z.E. He pointed out that battery-powered light commercials still have a limited range andtend to be expensive – a major stumbling block he feels given the tight profit margins so many potential customers have to work on in today’s economic climate.
'The future is electric, we know that, it’s the right approach and a good solution, but in the present state of affairs, our customers are calling for affordable, cleaner running and efficient internal combustion engines,' he said.
Mornhinweg believes that Citan – the name is derived from City and Titan – will allow Mercedes to tap into a growing sector of the European light commercial market.
'Small vans accounted for 32% of registrationsin Western Europe in 1990 but thathad risen to 45% by 2010,' he said.
Any concerns Mercedes customers mayhave about the ability of Renault to meettheir quality aspirations will prove groundlessBurkhart contended. The vehicle will bebuilt to Mercedes standards he insisted –and that includes the electrical system –and Mercedes engineers will inspect Citans as they roll off the assembly line.