LDV has won crucial fleet orders for its new Maxus range of vans valued at a total of £10 million from some of the country's biggest vehicle hire companies.

The Washwood Heath manufacturer will formally announce the deals at the 2005 Commercial Vehicle Show which opens at the NEC today.

It has so far clinched five big fleet orders within two months of the launch of the Maxus, the product of a £500 million investment by LDV and its venture capital backers.

They are seen by LDV as a major vote of confidence in the Maxus and have ensured the firm has hit its initial production target of 200 units a week.

The two biggest fleet contracts have been placed by Opti Rent, which is buying £3 million-worth of vans, and by TLS Vehicle Rental whose order is worth £2.5 million.

LDV's biggest customer, Royal Mail, which has bought 200 vehicles so far this year, is appraising the Maxus

Big early orders from fleet operators were always going to be the first indication of whether or not LDV has a success on its hands.

"We are delighted by these five fleet orders which reinforce the tremendous response we have had since we launched Maxus in February," said spokesman Steve Miller.

"The fleet operators have spent the past two months assessing Maxus and discussing finance and now they have placed firm orders." LDV said it had also received about 2,000 expressions of interest from smaller operators.

"Some customers are talking about replacing existing LDV Pilot and Convoy vehicles with Maxus, and some are interested in switching from some of our rivals," said Mr Miller.

Maxus is the first completely new van produced by LDV since it was rescued from the wreckage of the Leyland DAF commercial vehicles group in 1993.

Its launch was delayed by the collapse of South Korean group Daewoo, LDV's collaborator.

The company had to embark on a long and costly legal battle to claw back the intellectual property rights to the new vehicle and to take possession of the tooling to enable it to begin production at the Drews Lane factory.

This year's Commercial Vehicle Show is set to be the biggest in the event's 98-year history, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, have said.

More than 600 exhibitors showing off a record number of new products and services, and some 30,000 business visitors are expected to attend.

"Exhibitors are voting with their feet and want to enjoy the same success at this year's show as the did at the last one," said committee vice chairman Richard Gibb.

The event, the biggest of its kind in Europe, is taking place against a background of record van and truck sales.

"The UK economy is buoyant, reckoned to be the strongest in Europe and still kept busy by determined consumer spending," said SMMT spokesman Robin Dickeson.

"Although the threat of a General Election will mean some people will delay their spending plans a little, the good news is the economy shows few signs of changing much this year.

"Van sales are doing exceptionally well and look like continuing that way."

The SMMT confirmed the Commercial Vehicle Show will stay at the NEC.

"There are more business customers for commercial vehicle makers, component suppliers and support systems in a 50-mile radius of Birmingham than any other exhibition centre in the UK."