In the wake of what is one of the most significant announcements in trucking in many years – namely, the fact Isuzu Trucks is to buy UD Trucks (part of the Volvo Group) – the public relations business carries on merrily with both Volvo and UD locally telling tales how well they did in 2019 and how 2020 looks; with only the briefest mention of the BIG DEAL.
In December 2019 the Volvo Group and Isuzu Motors signed a non-binding Memorandum of Understanding with ‘the intent to form a strategic alliance within commercial vehicles in order to capture the opportunities in the ongoing transformation of the industry’.
In a first step, the intention is to establish a global technology partnership and to create a stronger, combined heavy-duty truck business for Isuzu Motors and UD Trucks in Japan and across international markets. This will entail transferring ownership of the complete UD Trucks business globally from the Volvo Group to Isuzu Motors in order to accelerate growth by leveraging greater volumes and complementary capabilities.
A key word in this is ‘non-binding’ but even so speculation is rife as to what it actually means in the massively changing world of trucking . . .and if UD Trucks is simply going tobe chewed to the bone Piranha style by Isuzu.
Meanwhile both UD Trucks and Volvo Trucks were positive about their activities in South Africa in 2019 with UD entering a new era with the appointment of a new managing director. Filip Van den Heede has replaced Gert Swanepoel, who retired after 32 years with the company.
“It has been an incredible journey with UD Trucks and it is truly the people and the relationships with customers and dealers that have made it worthwhile,” said Swanepoel. “It has been a privilege to be a part of the brand’s growth and development throughout the years, and I am excited about the future of UD Trucks in the region.”
Van den Heede has been involved in the trucking industry and the Volvo Group for the past 22 years and was previously Vice President of Vehicle Sales and Marketing for UD Trucks International Sales, which included responsibility for the southern African market. He has extensive experience in all aspects of the business, including aftermarket, business development, new product introductions and sales.
“Last year was an extraordinary year for UD Trucks Southern Africa, as we launched three new model ranges in the region,” says Van den Heede. “Our customers now have access to an extensive model line-up, from medium to extra heavy commercial vehicles, backed by the company’s 58 years of experience in the local industry.
“We have one of the most extensive dealer networks in the region, with 36 dealers and service agents in South Africa and 30 in other southern African countries such as Angola, Malawi, Mozambique, Mauritius, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe. As UD Trucks, we believe it comes down to the basics of supporting our customers every step of the way. To be there with professional service, parts and sales support throughout a truck’s lifecycle, and to keep on adding value to our customers’ businesses.”
Marketing Director, Rory Schulz said the performance of the commercial vehicle market was certainly erratic during 2019, as local economic conditions continued to be less than favourable.
“Despite all the odds, the total commercial vehicle market remained resilient and logged year-on-year growth of 2,1% at the end of 2019. However, transport operators continue to face severe cost pressures, with fluctuating diesel prices, overall safety of drivers and trucks, as well as instances of civil unrest, hitting many operations hard in the past year.”
Schulz said that the Southern Africa truck market is quite unique as on the one hand there are customers who want their fleets to have highly developed technologies and systems, while others are happy to stick to the very basics.
“The region is somewhat of a dichotomy as you can drive by hi-tech logistical warehouses that support large international corporations, while at the same time trying to avoid potholes on the road. As a manufacturer, we must take these two worlds into consideration when introducing new products and technologies,” says Schulz.
Volvo Trucks Southern Africa ended 2019 as the top-selling extra heavy truck manufacturer in South Africa having sold 3 206 units in South Africa and other African countries during last year, giving them a 23,2% market share of the segment.
The first place for Volvo Trucks is an improvement of its position in 2018, when the company finished in third position – a 4,8% growth in market share.
Volvo Trucks Southern Africa has assembly facilities in Durban and currently has four ranges available: the FH16, FH, FM and FMX. The company is also responsible for export to countries such as Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
“Our customers and our staff are the main driving force behind everything we do,” said Marcus Hörberg, vice president of Volvo Group Southern Africa. “We believe the quality of our products, our staff, service, parts and support, played a central role in increasing our market share. We will now work even harder to keep the trust our fleet owners have placed in us.”
Hörberg said that in order to efficiently support the growing Volvo Trucks vehicle parc, the company will invest in additional facilities and service dealers. The company will also train and develop additional technicians to keep service levels up to the highest standards.
At the end of the fourth quarter in 2019, Volvo Trucks was also the top-ranked truck manufacturer in terms of overall customer satisfaction, according to the latest report released by Data Track, a local research company that analyses customer experiences of more than 37 500 truck and fleet operators in South Africa.