Van Conversion programs by manufacturer

  • Type Approval polarised industry
  • Factory fit conversions now available
  • 75 percent still choose tippers, dropsides or box vans

With the UK economy recording strong growth and the construction industry going from strength to strength, the number of van conversions is again on the rise. Whole Vehicle Type Approval, which was introduced a couple of years ago, has polarised the industry; forcing many smaller operations out of business and pushing more business towards an elite few.

Bigger bodybuilders – like VFS and Ingimex – have found this legislation highly profitable as they can afford to type approve a wider variety of bodies while maintaining the special-order relationship with the manufacturers.

But they too may soon have a challenge waiting. Some manufacturers – like Fiat, Renault and Vauxhall – are starting to offer factory fit conversions, which means the bodies are manufactured and fitted on the production line.

A third of light commercial vehicle sales are now conversions, and 75 percent of the market can be satisfied by three offerings: tipper, dropside and box, or Luton van. Here is a list of the special relationships and agreements each of the manufacturers have with the bodybuilders.

Citroen Conversions

Citroen Relay conversion

Over the past five years, Citroen has been focussing a lot of its attention on van conversions. It invested £2m in late 2014 to stock up its dealerships with over 100 conversions, and sales are ten times higher than in 2014.

Conversions are split between the ‘Ready to Run’ and ‘Ready to Run Specialist’ programs. Ready to Run conversions are only on the Citroen Relay and are restricted to the ready-converted Tipmaster Tipper, Ingimex dropside and Buckstone Luton.

Ready to Run Specialist are for more exclusive conversions, like refrigerated and glass-carrying vans.

Fiat Professional Conversions

Fiat Ducato dropside

Fiat’s unique relationship with Scattolini means it can offer factory fitted conversions. A factory fit dropside version of the Doblo, called the ‘Work Up’, has been offered since 2011 and it is the only one of its kind on the market.

For heavier requirements, there are dropside and three-way tipper bodies offered on the Fiat Ducato, but no option of a Luton or box van.

Ford Conversions

Ford’s ‘One Stop Shop’ offering has been running for over 10 years now, and the made-to-order conversions have lead times varying between six and ten weeks. The Transit is the only large panel van not to be manufactured in Europe (it is built in Turkey), so factory fitted bodies are unfeasible.

Ford’s long-running partner VFS builds the tipper, three-way tipper, dropside and curtainsider, while Ingimex manufacturers the Luton and Box van.

Iveco Conversions

Iveco Daily conversions

Iveco doesn’t fit bodies at the Daily’s Suzzara factory; instead, each nation appoints preferred converters. In the UK, Ingimex builds the dropside and tipper bodies, while JC Payne manufactures the Luton body.

Lead times should be no longer than around three months. The Iveco Daily offers up to five tonnes of payload with the 7.2t chassis cab, and body lengths can extend up to 6.2 metres long.

Mercedes-Benz Conversions

Mercedes-Benz Sprinter dropside

Merc’s conversion offerings are fairly limited, with the world’s largest commercial vehicle manufacturer lacking a specialised conversion program. Only a dropside conversion is offered as a factory fit conversion for the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter.

Operators looking for other conversions, like Luton vans or tippers, will have to speak to their local dealers or source the bodybuilder themselves. All bodybuilders can join Merc’s bodywork portal to access technical guidance on how to build equipment onto the vehicles.

Nissan Conversions

Nissan NV400 Tipper

Nissan provides factory fit conversions of the NV200, NV400 and NT400, with offerings ranging from refrigerated vans, to dropsides and Lutons. A special relationship with Gruau means that the refrigerated bodies are fitted in a unit close to Nissan’s Barcelona factory.

The only body that isn’t factory fit is the NT400 Box Van, which is built and fitted by Northern Truck Bodies in South Shields. The situation isn’t as straightforward for specialist operators, though, as Nissan doesn’t have an approved converter list.

Peugeot Conversions

Peugeot Boxer Luton van

Peugeot is another manufacturer that lacks a dedicated conversion program, in spite of the Boxer being the third best-selling 3.5t last year.

The French manufacturer does have list of around five ‘approved’ local bodybuilders for tippers, dropsides and box vans, which are covered by the manufacturer warranty. However, because each conversion is made to order, the only new conversions in dealer stock are through cancelled orders, which increases lead times.

Renault Conversions

Renault Master conversion

The Renault Master chassis is one of the lightest at 3.5t, which makes it an ideal base for converted vehicles. Renault says it is able to satisfy around 75 percent of conversion customers with the tipper, dropside, box van and Luton low loader, which are built and converted at the Master’s factory in France.

Complementing the factory built conversions are the specialist conversions, which are carried out by any one of around 30 Renault approved bodybuilders in the UK. Converted Masters are available from any of Renault’s 151 sales and service centres, although we’d recommend visiting one of the 38 Pro+ Centres for specialist conversions.  

Vauxhall Conversions

Vauxhall Movano Luton

The ‘Core Conversions’ from Vauxhall are factory built conversions, and include the dropside, tipper and box van. Vauxhall presents one of the most versatile ready built conversions range, with 56 different weights, cab configurations and wheelbases to choose from, and all come with Vauxhall’s three year, or 100,000-mile, warranty.

Vauxhall has partnered with a number of UK bodybuilders to offer around 10 ‘Recognised Conversions’, including the car transporter from TGS and a refrigerated van from Cold Consortium. All recognised conversions are validated and approved by Vauxhall’s Special Vehicle Engineering team based at Millbrook Proving Ground and are subjected to an extensive technical evaluation.

Volkswagen Conversions

VW Crafter conversion

Volkswagen’s Engineered-to-Go program kicked off in 2007 and is made up of a tipper, dropside, and, since 2014, a Luton van. Volkswagen invests heavily to ensure its nationwide Van Centre network is well-stocked with demonstrators and drive-away models, which dramatically reduces lead times and leg work for the dealer and customer.

All of the Engineered-to-Go range is converted in the UK by Ingimex and are offered with flexible finance packages from Volkswagen Commercial Vehicle Finance. In addition, Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles has a list of around 14 approved bodybuilders for more specialist conversions like curtainsiders and welfare vehicles.