Anthony Grimshaw and his son Carl visited the Bolton branch of Mercedes-Benz Dealer Ciceley Commercials with the intention of testing a small truck to help meet soaring demand for their household milk delivery operation – they came away having purchased a pair of pre-owned vans.
So pleased were the proprietors of Smithills Open Farm with their low-mileage, Approved Used Vito 111 CDIs that a week later they ordered a third, and before long were back for a fourth.
Acquired with competitive funding support from Mercedes-Benz Finance, the 68-registered, Long-bodied vans are from a batch of 60 returned to the manufacturer on completion of their ‘first life’ lease contracts. These vehicles, each of which had covered between 12,000 and 20,000 miles, were then offered for sale by Ciceley Commercials.
In July, meanwhile, Smithills Open Farm purchased its first small Mercedes-Benz Citan van. An Extra-long 109 CDI model, the four-year-old vehicle has been allocated to a milk round with fewer deliveries.
The Grimshaw family have been farming in Lancashire for more than 100 years. Anthony Grimshaw moved with his young family to Smithills in 1986, to start a dairy farm. Encouraged by Bolton Council to develop a visitor attraction alongside Smithills Hall and Smithills Coaching House, they opened to the public in 2001.
Today, the farm’s 70 acres of rolling countryside a few miles north of Bolton is home to a variety of domestic stock, as well as more exotic animals such as meerkats, skunks and Burmese pythons, and a host of other attractions. Each year, thousands of children have the time of their lives at Smithills.
The farm’s prize-winning herd of pedigree Holstein cows is always popular, particularly with schools, as demonstrations in the milking parlour help pupils to understand where their food comes from.
Smithills Open Farm began making doorstep deliveries of milk in January 2019, after purchasing a local round with 250 customers. The new service was then advertised on the farm’s Facebook page, which has 43,000 followers. Carl Grimshaw recalled: “All of a sudden we had 500 customers, a total that snowballed very quickly into 1,000. We went from one milk round to four in no time at all, and still they kept coming. At the end of our first year we were delivering to 2,000 homes.”
The onset of the Covid-19 pandemic added further impetus so that by the time lockdown restrictions were lifted Smithills Open Farm was operating no fewer than 17 rounds and serving more than 4,000 customers.
“The growth in demand has been phenomenal, which is why we needed additional vehicles,” explained Carl, whose younger brother Daniel also works for the family concern. “We were struggling with the limited carrying capacity of our established vans, so visited Ciceley Commercials in Bolton on the recommendation of a friend, with a view to looking at a flat-bed truck.”
He recalled: “While there we also enquired about the used Vito vans on display outside, and realised we could almost buy two for the price of the truck. Social distancing guidelines meant we were restricted to an on-site test drive of the Vito, but that was enough.
“It was immediately obvious that this was the vehicle we needed to drive the business forward. We purchased the first two there and then, and after taking on another 300 customers went back for a third a week later. The fourth followed shortly afterwards, and now we’ve just bought our first Citan.”
The Vito vans are powered by 1.6-litre engines that offer outstanding fuel economy of 45.6 mpg (combined cycle). Other Vito variants are available with rear-wheel drive, but the 111 CDI’s 114 hp output is transmitted via the front wheels. The Citan’s 90hp 1.5-litre unit delivers outstanding economy in the combined cycle of up to 65.7 mpg, and CO2 emissions as low as 112 g/km.
Carl continued: “Sliding load doors on both sides and a significantly bigger cargo area than we’ve been used to mean the Vito is highly practical. As you’d expect of a Mercedes-Benz, it’s also very well put together, which is important given that each vehicle makes up to 300 ‘drops’ per day. That’s a lot of door openings!
“We bought a brand new French van a while back and the build quality was dreadful – the sliding door fell off on the first day, and again the day after; it was nothing but trouble. By contrast, despite the fact that they were already a couple of years old when they arrived, we’ve not had the slightest issue with a Vito.”
Once milk deliveries have been completed Smithills Open Farm uses its Mercedes-Benz vans to distribute ice cream, and fruit and vegetables, or for other purposes such as trips to wholesalers. “These vans are busy all day, not just in the mornings,” said Carl. “The Vito is so comfortable to drive that members of our delivery team practically fight each other for the keys, while the vans also look the part and attract plenty of attention in our ‘cow print’ livery.”
If the Vito has impressed, so, too, has Ciceley Commercials, a founder member of the manufacturer’s franchised network, which also operates from headquarters in Blackburn and other branches in Carlisle and Dumfries.
“The Dealer has been brilliant, particularly its Used Vehicle Sales Executive Jonny Kenyon, who couldn’t have done more for us,” enthused Carl. “He’s very responsive and will always get back to me, even when he’s on a day off. Ciceley were also efficient in preparing the vans exceptionally quickly – indeed, we were able to collect a couple of them on the days we placed our orders.”
Mercedes-Benz Approved Used vans come with the same exacting commitment to quality and workmanship as new vehicles. A maximum of six years old and with fewer than 150,000 miles on the clock, all undergo comprehensive pre-delivery inspections. The support package includes a 12-month Mercedes-Benz warranty that can be extended to 24 months, and at least 12 months’ mechanical breakdown insurance.
Carl Grimshaw added: “We’ve acquired five premium quality Mercedes-Benz vans, each with a two-year warranty, at very competitive prices, and we couldn’t be happier. They’re perfect for the job, so we now intend to replace our previous vehicles with more by Mercedes-Benz at the earliest opportunity.”