A Special Case
Dedicated international express delivery firm The Special Carrier had never bought a new van, preferring instead to deal with the rapid expansion and contraction of client demand by spot renting its vehicles then returning them to the provider when they weren't needed for work.
However, strong growth coupled with a planned further expansion in 2017 of its Dover-based European Operations Centre prompted a change of heart. The company recently purchased two Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 314 CDI Long vans from Sparshatts of Kent.
Managing Director Steve Herman says: "The Sprinter has proved supremely reliable over the years, and on the few occasions when we have had a breakdown on the Continent the MobiloVan response has been outstanding"
He continues: "The Dealer's van sales executive Kay Bartholomew made a very persuasive financial case for the benefits of acquisition backed by a three-year Mercedes-Benz Service Plan. We're proposing to run the vans for two years so that when we come to sell, the new owner will still have a year's warranty and a free service in hand. The numbers certainly stack up and I'm confident that we'll be able to keep these vehicles out on the road and earning more or less constantly."
Thirteen years after he left to join a leasing company, John Kirrage is once again selling new vans for Sparshatts of Kent. His return has allowed John to renew acquaintances with many former colleagues, but for one member of the Dealership team, he always remained a big part of her life. That's because John and used van sales executive Tracy Kirrage have been happily married since 2006.
John first worked for Sparshatts in 1998, following its acquisition of his former employer, the Tunbridge Wells-based Kent & Sussex Truck Centre. Tracy arrived to take up a telesales position the following year, and by the end of 2000 the couple were dating.
Before rejoining the Dealer, John was selling trucks as well as vans for a rival manufacturer. "Things were going well for me, but I felt that Mercedes-Benz was the better brand to be with - people will always want a vehicle with a three-pointed star on the front," he says.
"Today's Sparshattsis a very different, much bigger company than the one I left, but it still has the family firm ethos that I like. It's great to be back."
Tracy is equally happy to be working with her husband again but laughs: "John's fine while I'm responsible for used vans and he's selling new ones. He knows that if it ever came to a competition between us I'd win hands down!"
The latest Mercedes-Benz Actros is certainly living up to its reliable, fuel-efficient billing for Thames Group, a third-generation family firm now celebrating its 110th anniversary. Three months after entering service the seven tractor units were comfortably out-performing the company's Swedish-built trucks.
Operations Manager Daniel Treadwell reports: "While the varying nature of our work means it's difficult to make direct fuel comparisons, the Actros are always a good mile ahead and the difference is sometimes as much as 2.2 mpg." Thames Group runs 15 tractor units, a 7.5-tonner and a fleet of vans from its base in Dartford. The business was established in 1977 by Peter Treadwell.
The founder's son Mark is now Managing Director — Daniel is one of Mark's four children who work for the family concern. Its latest Actros 2545 BigSpace models have replaced Euro 5 Actros which Thames Group was leasing from a third-party provider, and are the subject of a Mercedes-Benz CharterWay' contract hire agreement.
Not only does the deal put together by Sparshatts' truck sales executive Ben Williams mean Thames Group is paying less for the new vehicles than it was for their predecessors, but they also came with a higher specification. Features include colour-coded bumpers, sliding fifth wheels, fridges and optional, fuel-saving Predictive Powertrain Control systems.
Sparshatts' Dartford workshop team are carrying out routine inspections and maintenance. "Our driver drops his truck off and comes back in the Dealer's ‘smart’ courtesy vehicle," adds Mr. Treadwell.
So pleased was Forevergreen Gardens' Richard Brown with his first 3.5-tonne FUSO Canter tipper that when the time finally came to replace it he had no hesitation in returning for a second. The firm provides customers in the south London borough of Bromley with a broad range of horticultural, arboricultural and landscaping services, covering everything from day-to-day maintenance to a complete re-design.
Mr. Brown uses the new Canter 3C1 3 to carry and tip general garden waste. It was supplied, like its predecessor, by Sparshatts
of Kent — Mercedes-Benz Dealers are also responsible for sales and support of the popular FUSO light truck range.
Key to the model's appeal is its robust design concept. "My old truck was bullet-proof," he recalls. "Our work takes us onto some rough sites at times, with plenty of mud and ruts to contend with. Yet it never gave me any problems at all. Most 3.5-tonners are based on vans, but the Canter is a proper little truck and built to take plenty of punishment. It's just a great all-around tool."
The vehicle came with a fuel-saving engine stop/start system — "I don't monitor the diesel consumption but the new truck is definitely more economical than our last tipper,” he reports.