'Me and my van - it's our business'
People buy vans for a variety of reasons - from warranties to their ability to take hard knocks - as we found out when we spoke to those involved with four companies who recently decided to purchase commercial vehicles.
SUSHI KING, Opel Vivaro
When your company's reputation depends on delivering freshly-prepared Asian cuisine the last thing you can afford to let you down is your delivery van.
That's one of the reasons Audrey King, owner of Sushi King, a popular restaurant and wholesale provider of Japanese food, counts on Opel's Vivaro.
"For us to be without a van even for a day would be disastrous," Audrey says. "Opel has a good reputation, and the five-year warranty they offer helped in deciding to opt for the Vivaro."
Office workers in the busy Baggott Street area of Dublin are likely to be familiar with Sushi King. The restaurant is a popular lunchtime venue.
With the success of the restaurant, Audrey identified an opportunity for her produce on a broader market.
With Sushi King now supplying the likes of Donnybrook Fair and Avoca, as well as some Spar, Supervalu and Mace shops getting the right van to ensure the food is delivered on time was crucial.
Opel's mid-sized van ticked the boxes. Sushi King acquired its first Vivaro last year, with a second one on the way in the next month.
Kenilworth Motors in Harold's Cross supplied the vehicles, while the refrigeration unit was fitted by Ballinlough Refrigeration.
"The Vivaro is the right size for our requirements", Audrey said. "It's big enough to carry all the produce, while compact for city traffic and tight parking spaces". She also admits to liking the styling. Fully kitted out in Sushi King livery, it's certainly an effective mobile advertisement.
The next addition to the fleet will be the higher spec Sportive. "This one will be doing more motorway driving.
It's got more power but is more fuel efficient. It's got air-con and a lot more standard equipment."
REMO; Renault vans
Right to left: Christopher Murray MD, Bernard Daly and Emmet Byrne, site engineers.
For many businesses, the measure of a good van is its ability to take abuse time and again.
Chris Murray, sales director Regional Electrical Maintenance Ltd, admits the vans on the company's fleet live a hard life.
Based in Ashbourne, Co Meath, REM is an installation company of automation and security devices such as traffic barriers for car parking, automatic doors and gates and rising bollards.
It operates a number of Renault vans including a Master, two Trafics and a brace of Kangoos. Chris says: "The vans would get a lot of abuse, in that we do a lot of groundworks such as digging out foundations for concrete bases.
"The Master in particular would be carrying everything from concrete and gravel, to mixers and welding plant so it can be fairly laden down.
"It does get an awful lot of work and after five years it owes us well and truly nothing."
Nevertheless, the Renaults on REM's fleet have been reliable. Chris is happy to return to the French marque when it's time to renew. "The back-up and service we get over the years is one of the reasons we stuck with Renault even when times got tight."
REM operates a five-year changeover policy. "When Renault came out with a five-year warranty, it allowed us to plan the depreciation over a few years, after which we get a new van".
Having started a fresh cycle with new vans from Michael Grant Renault in Sandymount, Chris notes the improved fuel consumption from the 1.5 dCi engine in the Trafic. And an improved interior load length means a roof-rack to transport 4-metre long booms is no longer needed.
Moore Environmental; Nissan commercials
John Moore: happy with his Nissan fleet.
Some companies will maintain a fleet of vehicles across a range of models, or switch brands regularly. Others see benefits in establishing long term relationships.
Moore Environmental from Carlow falls into the latter category.
The specialist commissioning and validation engineering firm's fleet is exclusively Nissan.
Perhaps it's all down to the selling power of the local dealer.
They have been buying Nissans from Flynns of Carlow for much of its 21-year history.
Providing certification and validation of clean rooms for the pharmaceutical and medical device industries, Moore Environmental's team of engineers travel the country in a range of Nissan commercials, including X-Trail, Qashqai and Almera models.
With vehicles transporting specialised and sensitive equipment, and having to cover around 300,000km before being replaced, company boss John Moore expects his fleet to perform.
He counts reliability, economy, comfort and dealer service among the criteria he looks for.
"Our engineers might be doing an eight-hour day with a two-hour commute either end, so comfort and economy are very important to us.
"Reliability is huge. It's not the cost of fixing. It's the time factor."
This year Moore Environmental is replacing its 15-strong fleet of Nissan commercials - with more Nissans.
The new X-Trail Commercial and the NV200 Crew Cab are the latest to carry the company's livery.
A challenge for companies is to know when it's most cost-effective to refresh vehicles and fleets.
One Dublin company is replacing its entire van line-up with new 161-reg Citroens. Ballymount-based Kaneco supplies kitchens to the commercial food service industry, including hotels and restaurants.
With a fleet of 16 vans (all eight-years-old) of various makes used by the company's field-service technicians and installers, Dave Moody from Kaneco explained increasing maintenance costs meant it was becoming a false economy to keep them on the road.
"Yes, it's certainly a bit of a fleet change. We've replaced the old vans with Citroens of three different sizes supplied by Koping Citroen on the Naas Road." They have 13 so far with another four coming.
Comprising eight Berlingos, two Dispatch and three Relay models, why opt for a complete Citroen fleet? "Within the industry we had a lot of good feedback about the vans, from the service technicians and people we know who have had them." He added: "The staff at Koping offered excellent service. They would come back to you immediately on a query. Plus, they're local."
Dave says Kaneco intends to overhaul its vans more regularly. "Our plan is built on a four-year cycle. The warranty and maintenance packages that we have get us to four years.
Our plans will be to change again then so we don't get caught up in that high cost maintenance cycle again."