The Valet Man polishes up its act with new Mercedes-Benz vans
Paul Hickling is an expert at making vehicles shine, but he also knows from long experience that when it comes to Mercedes-Benz beauty is more than skin-deep.
That's because Paul's Nottinghamshire-based mobile valeting business, The Valet Man, has relied on vans bearing the three-pointed star for well over two decades, and they have always proved outstandingly reliable and cost-effective to operate.
For much of that time The Valet Man has worked for the Mertrux Group - as Mertrux Truck & Van, it holds the franchise for both Mercedes-Benz commercial vehicle brands in the East Midlands.
Today, Mertrux is Paul's single biggest customer and he and his colleagues spend much of their time travelling between their own head office in Sutton-in-Ashfield, and the Dealer's branches in Derby, Leicester, Nottingham and Mansfield.
The Valet Man team are responsible for ensuring that the new and used vans and trucks offered for sale by Mertrux always look their very best. They also clean and polish the pre-owned Mercedes-Benz cars retailed by the Dealer from its Derby headquarters, and prepare vehicles prior to handover to their new owners.
The Valet Man operates three vans, two of which have just entered service. Supplied - of course - by Mertrux, one is a 3.5-tonne Sprinter 316 CDI, the other a Vito 114 CDI with uprated 3.05-tonne gross weight.
As a special Premium Edition model, the 163 hp Sprinter came with a satellite navigation system and colour screen 'infotainment' unit, air conditioning, and a Comfort driver's seat, as well as a chrome-effect radiator grille, and wheel trims. This option pack represents a substantial saving on the price customers would pay if purchasing items individually.
Meanwhile, the 136 hp output from the Vito's advanced 2.1-litre engine is transmitted via an optional, smooth-shifting automatic 7G-Tronic Plus gearbox to the rear wheels - other Vito variants are available with front-wheel drive.
Acquired with competitive funding support from Mercedes-Benz Financial Services, the new vans have replaced a pair of older Sprinters, one of which was taken back by the Dealer in part-exchange. They have lined up alongside The Valet Man's third vehicle, also a Sprinter, which has been on the road since 2013.
The vans' cargo areas are protected by waterproof linings and fitted with their own tanks, so that Paul and his colleagues are not reliant on their customers to provide a water source. The vehicles also carry all of the other equipment used by The Valet Man to conduct its work, including pressure washers, vacuum cleaners, chemicals, ladders and platforms, cloths, leathers and buffers, and extension cables.
"Our vans are essentially mobile work stations," explained Paul. "We are very self-contained and the fact that we carry our own water means we can work at the farthest edge of a customer's site."
Paul is now driving the new Sprinter, and the Vito - chosen for its impressive, 46.3 mpg (combined cycle) economy figure - is allocated to Gavin Lewis. Sean Pepperday uses the older Sprinter, while Paul's 18-year-old daughter Tanya has just completed her apprenticeship and also works as a valeter. His wife Sabrina completes the team as Office Manager.
"The number of vehicles sold by Mertrux had grown dramatically over the years," said Paul. "As a result, the Dealer has put more and more work our way, so that it is now our most important client.
"The fact that sales of Mercedes-Benz vans continue to grow strongly comes as no surprise to me. We've run several over the years and they've all been exceptionally reliable and economical to run, while also leading the market in terms of safety.
"Our latest models are well equipped, extremely comfortable and easy to drive. No less importantly, given the nature of our business, they also look great - the three-pointed star certainly helps to reassure other established and prospective customers that we are a professional company providing a high-quality service."