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It's a van-tastic start; Commercial vehicle sales leading the charge for motor industry in 2011 as manufacturers gear up for big show.

LAST year was one of recovery for the UK motor industry. But 2011 is off to a flying start thanks largely to a boom in the commercial vehicle sector.

White van man has never been so in demand as businesses look to get themselves back on track following a quiet couple of years.

Registrations for both vans and trucks have improved sharply since the New Year.

Figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders showed an overall rise of 50 per cent in January followed by a 27 per cent increase in February.

The market for commercial vehicles rose in all but one month in 2010 and 2011 looks to build on that success.

And Chancellor George Osborne did the industry a favour by announcing a 1p per litre cut in fuel duty while also cancelling the fuel duty escalator and delaying other planned rises.

With everyone keeping one eye on the pumps, it helps that commercial vehicles are becoming more fuel efficient. All the major manufacturers are introducing green vans in 2011.

Renault chalked up record commercial vehicle sales in 2010 and are following it up by introducing their 100 per cent electric Kangoo Van ZE at next month's CV Show at Birmingham's NEC.

Meanwhile, Vauxhall will be the first van maker to offer an "eco" model across their whole van range, with the launch of their Ecoflex line-up.

Ford's trusty Transit has been providing Britain's backbone for 45 years but the new Transit Connect Electric promises to revolutionise the sector.

Powered by a 28kWh lithium ion battery pack and 55kW eclectic motor, it has a range of up to 80 miles and top speed of 75 mph.

The van is already available to order, with first arrivals hitting the road this summer.

Mercedes-Benz's Vito E-Cell uses a larger battery (36kWh) and motor (70kW) for a similar range. It can carry a payload of up to 900kg but is limited to 50mph.

The firm will also show two green versions of their Sprinter van, a natural gas powered model and a Blue Efficiency model.

Volkswagen plan to use the event to launch their double-cab Amarok.

The new four-door, fourwheel-drive pick-up will be the star of the firm's stand, supported by nine other VW vehicles, including the Caddy and Caddy Maxi panel vans, Transporter, Crafter and Caravelle.

SMMT Chief Executive Paul Everitt reckons healthy demand for commercial vehicles suggested business confidence in the UK was also on the rise.

He said: "During 2010, van and truck registrations posted one of the strongest annual rates of growth ever, at 15.9 per cent, as volumes started to recover from the recession.

"The commercial vehicle sector is leading recovery, with February van registrations up 24 per cent and trucks up 50 per cent. We are now seeing a sustainable improvement in new vehicle demand.

"While we still have a long way to go to get volumes back to pre-recession levels, we expect more growth in 2011 and 2012."

The CV Show runs at Birmingham's NEC from April 12 to 14.

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WATT A DIFFERENCE: Electric vans include Ford's Transit, the Kangoo and Vito E-Cell
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Mar 30, 2011
Words:524
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