Dawsonrentals has ditched the Hiregate brand name and renamed its van rental business Dawsonrentals vans as part of a drive to grow its light commercials division.

Although Dawson has rented vans for decades, it launched Hiregate three years ago and by the end of this year the company will have a fleet of 4,000 vans based at four van centres – Newcastle, Doncaster, Skelmersdale and a new site – Dawson Road in Bletchley, Bucks – that has relocated from Bicester and will form the HQ of the relaunched van operation (pictured).

Bletchley will also be home to a retail division that is already selling 750 ex-rental vans a year.

Dawson group MD Steve Miller said the company will open four more dedicated van centres in 2014, planned for Ipswich, Kent, Avonmouth and Birmingham. The van centres open the same hours as its truck centres – 8am to 6pm Monday to Friday and 8am to noon on Saturday.

Dawsonrentals offers vans of all sizes and will body chassis cabs to customer specifications, including tippers and Luton vans. It is buying from three manufacturers, Mercedes-Benz, VW and Ford, to ensure it places enough volume with each to get the best terms.

Group chief executive Michael Williams said rental periods are totally flexible, from a few weeks to three or five years. Target customers cover the full spectrum of van operators from owner drivers to large CV fleets.

“Our major focus is to convince people who would have bought vans to switch to rental,” said Williams. “Every day there are more reasons to come to us. We don’t mind if they run one, 100 or 1,000 vans.”

These reasons include flexibility – customers can change their vehicle with 24 hours notice – and Dawson’s better buying power.

“It would be great if everyone came in for a five year contract but that isn’t what the market wants,” said Williams. “If a customer wants say 30 vans, we can give them a core fleet of 15 on a three year contract and the rest on a flexible basis.”

Miller is heading the van division until a new MD is appointed next year. Mercedes-Benz van sales director Steve Bridge is understood to have been lined up for the job but elected to stay with the van manufacturer.