Fiat and PSA Peugeot-Citroen have taken the wraps off their new jointly-produced compact utility vans this week. The new Peugeot Expert, Citroen Dispatch and Fiat Scudo will be officially launched in January to replace the three vans of the same names currently on the market.

As you can see from the picture, the vans are essentially identical, with only a slightly different nose to make them identifiable as belonging to their respective brands, making this joint venture an obvious exercise in badge engineering. The lightweight vans are available in a variety of configurations with various body styles and payload capacities. Although they're mainly commercial vehicles, a "combi-van" nine-passenger configuration is also available, which is likely to be popular with taxi and shuttle-bus services in Europe and elsewhere.

The vans are being built at the Sevel Nord plant in the north of France. Sevel is an acronym for Société Européenne de Véhicules Légers SpA (European Society of Lightweight Vehicles); the plant also builds a range of MPVs for Fiat and PSA, sold as the Citroën C8, Peugeot 807, Fiat Ulysse and Lancia Phedra.

The vans were unveiled at Sevel Nord together by Jean-Martin Folz and Sergio Marchionne, chief executives of PSA and Fiat respectively, both of whom recently revealed are leaving their posts.

Follow the jump for more pics and the full press release

[Source: PSA Peugeot Citroen]

Press Release

PSA Peugeot Citroen and Fiat Unveil New Compact Vans

Jean-Martin Folz, Chief Executive Officer of PSA Peugeot Citroën and Sergio Marchionne, Chief Executive Officer of Fiat, yesterday unveiled a new family of compact light commercial vehicles at the Sevel Nord plant in Northern France.

To be launched in mid-January 2007, the newcomers succeed the Peugeot Expert, Citroën Dispatch and Fiat Scudo, and keep their respective names.

These new compact light commercial vehicles are available in a broad range of body styles with volumes of 5 to 7m3 and payloads of 1,000 and 1,200 kg, allowing business users to select the right vehicle for their specific business needs.

In addition, the two groups are extending their ranges with a new passenger vehicle offering, the combi-van, a van-based large MPV seating up to nine passengers.

The new vehicles for both groups are produced in Valenciennes, Northern France, at the Sevel Nord plant, with a workforce of nearly 4,400 employees and producing up to 130,000 units a year in three shifts.

The Sevel Nord site which is operationally managed by PSA Peugeot Citroën also assembles the Peugeot, Citroën, Fiat and Lancia brands' top-of-the-range MPVs.

To manufacture these diverse ranges of vehicles priority action was given to modernising the workshops, redesigning logistics and improving workstation ergonomics. The Sevel Nord plant assembles as many as 14 different body styles on a single line: the top of the range MPVs, the new compact light commercial vehicles and the combi-vans. Industrial investment for the production of these new compact light commercial vehicles and combi-vans totals €440 million.

Nearly one million units of the previous generation of Peugeot Expert, Citroën Dispatch and Fiat Scudo models, launched in 1995, have so far been produced at the Sevel Nord plant. These light commercial vehicles helped trigger the boom in the compact light commercial vehicle segment in Europe with their novel car-like driveability, an offering not previously available on light commercial vehicles.

Following the renewal of their larger light commercial vehicle ranges: the Citroën Relay, Peugeot Boxer and Fiat Ducato, in May 2006, the two groups are continuing to rejuvenate their light commercial vehicle ranges.

The next step in this market offensive will occur in 2008 with the launch of a new small van manufactured in Turkey under Tofas management.