Cathal Doyle talks to four owners and reports on what persuaded them to choose the brands and vehicles for their companies.
CITROEN / CITYLITES GALWAY
As chief buyer for Citylites, Galway, Anne Cummins spends a lot of her time travelling the world, sourcing fine lighting products. Citylites is the retail lighting offshoot of Peter Curran Electrical, Galway's largest electrical wholesaler. Situated in the Glenrock Business Park, Ballybane, it offers a huge selection of lighting.
When not travelling overseas, Anne spends a lot of her time visiting customers around the west of Ireland bringing product samples with her, and offering professional advice on all aspects of lighting.
Visiting customers at their homes or businesses requires a spacious van to transport her fragile goods and for Anne there's only one vehicle for the job - her new Citroen Dispatch. Practical reasons are behind why she chose the French product which was purchased from Kenny Motors in Galway.
"One reason is that the side opening door is on the driver's side of the vehicle which I find very handy as I am constantly in and out of the van," she explains. "On many vans it is fitted on the other side." Ergonomics were also a consideration. "I find the seat is a perfect height for me. It's comfortable and provides good visibility."
To safely carry her valuable merchandise, the Dispatch is fitted out with a wooden floor as well as hooks in the roof for hanging chandeliers and other fragile items
As she tends to run her vans for a number of years, Anne has made a couple of modifications to the Dispatch to meet her specific needs, including installing shelving to hold her books and brochures. The other one is more personal, a place to store her lipstick.
Perhaps that's a modification she should suggest to Citroen for the next generation of their popular panel van. "Now there's a thought!" she agrees.
RENAULT/DYNAMIC EVENTS WICKLOW
Twenty-one years ago Richard Phelan identified a gap in the market for corporate sector team-building activities. The result was Dynamic Events, now established as one of Ireland's leading event-management providers.
"We offer the opportunity for corporates to outsource their team building activities," explains Richard. The Blessington-based business runs a broad range of indoor and outdoor activity functions ranging from team building events to product launches, conferences and corporate entertainment. Last year alone, the team of 12 ran more than 450 events all over Ireland.
Clients include some of the country's leading companies, including many blue-chip financial and IT businesses.
The service means hauling a lot of equipment around the place, so when it comes to choosing vans, capacity is key. That's one of the reasons why Richard recently purchased two Renault Master LHL 35 Energy panel vans. The rear-wheel drive vans are the largest Renault offers, boasting 17 cubic metres of load space.
"We need to be able to transport everything from team building equipment and audio-visual gear to Santa thrones and picket fencing," says Richard.
Another reason was projecting the right image. "Everything that we do, drive, even wear, needs to say quality. We need to back up what we do with the right products and vehicles. The Renaults fit the bill perfectly," he says of the stylish black and silver liveried vans.
Purchased from Belgard Motors, Dublin, Richard is delighted with his Master vans since acquiring them last autumn. "They look great, have huge capacity and are very competitively priced. I certainly see us buying them again."
OPEL/APEX FIRE CAVAN
When dealing with fire protection and detection is your everyday job, you expect and demand the best equipment as a matter of course. When it comes to vans, Declan Kelly, managing director of Apex Fire, puts his trust in Opel.
Apex Fire Ltd, whose HQ is at Moynehall, Cavan, is a one-stop shop for all protection/detection and certified training needs. As part of the Moyne Roberts Group, one of Europe's largest producers of fire extinguishers and hose reels, it has depots in Dublin, Cork, Limerick and Galway, with representatives in every county.
Currently operating more than 60 vans, the company added 28 Opel Vivaros and Combos to its fleet in August 2016. That link will be strengthened further as it has placed an order for an additional 23 Opel vans through HB Dennis Leasing.
Declan says the Opels make sense on a number of fronts. "We've noticed a significant improvement in fuel efficiency compared with some of the vans we were using previously."
Having to carry lots of heavy equipment, payload capacity is always a concern; here again Declan says the Vivaros come up trumps, being able to carry around 200kg more than similar-sized vans.
Fitted with satnavs, and bearing the new company logo, the vans are fitted with parking sensors which Declan describes as being a big benefit in aiding safer driving. "Feedback from the drivers was very important in our decision to continue using Opel."
In September last year, Apex Fire achieved accreditation against the prestigious Investors in People standard which recognises the role of an excellent employer and place to work among other key attributes. Apex Fire is currently recruiting, with vacancies for fire safety trainers, and fire alarm and fire extinguisher technicians (email@example.com).
NISSAN/J&S AUTOMOTIVE DUBLIN
With Nissan's Irish headquarters barely a stone's throw away, it's not surprising that J&S Automotive features the manufacturer's products exclusively in its fleet. But according to Gareth Fitzpatrick, Warehouse and Logistics Manager for the leading automotive parts distributor, proximity isn't the reason; rather the vehicles' toughness, reliability and value for money. "Basically we find Nissan's vans to be very good," says Gareth. "Our vehicles have to do heavy mileage, to all corners of Ireland. We need them to be reliable as they work day and night".
From a small shop set up by Joe Gaynor at the Five Lamps on Amiens Street, Dublin 40 years ago, J&S Automotive has grown into a major car-parts distributor with hubs all over Ireland. It supplies parts, tools and training to the independent aftermarket using its own fleet. It has grown a lot and will employ more than 180 by 2018.
Of the fleet of 24 Nissans, the majority are the larger capacity NV400s, but there are a number of compact NV200s. With the mid-sized NV300 recently on sale, one was added in November, with a further five arriving next month. J&S is keen to add the ENV200 when the infrastructure supports it.
Windsor Dundrum Nissan supplies the vehicles. There is a strong relationship with salesman Niall O'Kelly; it moved its business to the Dundrum dealership when Niall transferred from Windsor Liffey Valley. That the vans work hard is highlighted by the fact there are already almost 50,000km on that three-month old NV300.
Gareth jokes he'll be entitled to a free vehicle from Nissan when another NV400 (132 plate) with 700,000km+ on the clock, reaches 1m km.