Dissatisfied with being viewed as a two-van manufacturer, Volkswagen is set to launch a range of new dealer initiatives when the facelifted Crafter panel van goes on sale in July.
While sales of the Volkswagen Caddy and Transporter have always stood up well, the sales success of the larger Crafter has, since its launch in 2006, been overshadowed by its twin brother the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter.
Both vans come off the same production line in Dusseldorf and differ only in front-end styling and engines.
The new Crafter features a completely fresh range of 2.0-litre TDI powerplants offering up to 33% better fuel efficiency, lower emissions and reduced SMR costs of up to 25%.
Torque increases over the old engines, while prices are expected to rise by around 1.5%.
And it is this greener, leaner model – along with the launch of the Amarok 4x4 pick-up this month – that Volkswagen hopes will help persuade the UK public that the firm is now firmly in the four-van manufacturer class.
At the launch in Sweden, VW Crafter product manager Owain Price told AM: “We are fed up with being viewed as a two-van manufacturer and will
be talking about Crafter much more with our van dealers. This is a biggie for us."
Volkswagen will be instructing its specialist van dealer network to beef up their range of demo models and they will also be expected to carry more ready-to-sell stock, including chassis-cab variants.
The manufacturer is also planning to launch a ‘Try and Buy’ scheme in which existing and potential customers will be offered models to test out for between three and six months before they make a buying decision.
UK Crafter sales totalled 3,500 in 2010 and Volkswagen hopes to increase this figure to 4,000 in 2012.
One of the disadvantages that Crafter has against Sprinter is that the Mercedes-Benz product is sold through the dealers’ truck network, which offers added attractions such as out-of-hours servicing and a 24/7 breakdown and repair service.
Price admitted the VW dealer network had its work cut out to compete. He said: “Yes, we admit we face challenges here.
“Some of our van dealers, for example, don’t even have high enough doors to be able to deal with Luton body vans for example.
“But the factory has really pushed the boat out with new Crafter and we just can’t afford to get it wrong. “This new model is more fuel-efficient than both the Sprinter and the Transit and we need to shout this from the rooftops.”