The market for standardised vans and
trucks is currently suffering from the drawbacks caused by the
credit crisis, with a huge decrease in demand and plummeting
The bespoke vehicle sector, however, seems
less affected both because of the smaller amount of vehicles
involved, and because these vehicles often entirely fulfil
customers’ expectations and are kept for a longer amount of
Commercial vehicle (CV) lessors have seen this
trend intensify in the last few months.
The CV division of Hitachi Capital, for
example, has seen an increase in requests to source and fund a
variety of bespoke CVs to address a range of “unusual and specific
According to Jon Lawes, MD of Hitachi’s CV
division, the company has received some “extraordinary requests”,
but has been able to “fulfil the customer’s requirement, however
specific” as well as offering “the optimum funding plan”.
Recent solutions have included
climate-controlled bespoke vehicles to transport paintings for a
London-based art gallery, some specialist suction excavators for
National Grid’s gas pipe replacement programme nationwide, and
so-called “Chefmobil” vehicles for frozen food manufacturer
Apetito’s meals-on-wheel service.
Undoubtedly, bespoke solutions are more
expensive than standardised ones, but this is offset by the fact
that they are in line with the customer’s expectations.
Ronny Seidel, the head of BNP Paribas-owned
Artegy, a contract hire company which specialises in bespoke CV
solutions, said: “For bespoke solutions, you need to invest much
more time into the customer relationship, because you need to
understand first what the customer needs.”
This involves a lot of work to make a detailed
analysis of the customer’s activity and then validate the vehicle
specifications, which is finally followed by the actual order
process. But in Seidel’s opinion, the higher price is offset by
greater customer satisfaction.
He said: “Standard solutions meet around
two-thirds of a customer’s expectations, which make the client
reasonably happy. The bespoke solution is more expensive, but it
entirely fulfils what a client expects in terms of compliance and
In terms of residual values, Seidel added that
although it is difficult to set them for bespoke vehicles, as they
depend very much on the vehicle itself and what it is used for,
bespoke solutions usually have a longer use and, so far, Artegy has
seen a “very decent market”.
He said: “For standard trucks and vans, it is
getting worse because there are lots of vehicles coming back to the
market and, more or less, they have the same specifications. In the
case of bespoke ones, the volume is much lower, so if they are in
the right market there are still decent residual prices.”
Forecasting a stronger demand in bespoke
vehicles, some lessors are even introducing some dedicated
RBS-owned Lombard, for instance, last year
launched VanPlus+, a bespoke van service which has seen a
“significant” increase in business so far.
According to Lombard Vehicle Management’s
general sales manager, Matt Dale, a key feature of the
newly-launched service is creating custom-built vans with a process
that begins with the identification of a basic van, and goes
through to the final specification, from racking and roof systems
to specialist items.
He added: “We keep a library of past
conversions and very often a customer will see something that
almost exactly fits their specific requirement, providing a
cost-effective template for their solution.”