Pioneering change in the transportation sector

The transportation industry is changing and, according to Jasper Hafkamp, the Executive Director of Daimler Trucks and Buses Southern Africa (DTBSA), the company is changing with it and leading the pack

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It is no secret that Daimler likes to be at the head of the pack. As the inventor of the automobile and the truck, Mercedes-Benz prides itself on its logo “Trucks You Can Trust” and is making every effort to keep that promise and to expand its market-leading position in the South African market.

Since taking control of the division, which saw DTBSA split from the Mercedes-Benz South Africa company and form its own legal entity, Hafkamp has set about getting the DTBSA to “live the brand”, to ensure that the ideals the company products stand for align with the ideals and hopes of both the dealers they serve and the ultimate end user, the customer.

The global Daimler group is restructuring into three new companies—Mercedes-Benz Cars and Vans, Daimler Trucks and Buses and Daimler Mobility AG.

A separate legal entity

DTBSA will continue to be responsible for all the trucks and bus activities in the Southern African region, but will now run as a separate entity from Mercedes-Benz South Africa. This is the next step in their dedication to aligning with their customers’ needs.

The establishment of a new, legal entity in DTBSA will sharpen their strategic focus and provide the entrepreneurial freedom to respond quickly and flexibly to the unprecedented changes happening in the automotive industry. Becoming a standalone entity enables the company to concentrate fully on their customers and enter into more flexible partnerships for the future success of the business.

“On the one hand, we benefit from having such a broad portfolio of passenger cars and trucks, and we can benefit from implementing passenger car technology in our trucks and vice versa.

“And, in the end, it is about fulfilling customer needs, and it makes you much more focused and agile if you can focus solely on the truck and bus business. We are still part of the Daimler group of companies and that is important,” Hafkamp explains.

Established brands

The company continues to dedicate its activities to the Mercedes-Benz truck and bus ranges, as well as the FUSO truck range, and the supply of parts for Freightliner trucks. Not to be forgotten are their special solutions like Fleetboard, together with their pre-owned vehicle business, Truckstore.

In addition to the new corporate structure, they will also be expanding their product range within the Southern African region whilst retaining their reputation as the embodiment of innovation, technology, safety and relentless commitment to their customers’ safety.

On the FUSO side, they will continue to expand their product portfolio to close any viable opportunities they may have within the light, medium and heavy-duty commercial vehicle segments.

Their objective is to offer a diverse range of distribution and some construction vehicles that are designed to eliminate any complexities associated with trucking. Simply put, they aim to deliver reliability and quality, value for money and the best service support.

“We still have our Freightliner business as there are still 10 000 operational Freightliners in the Southern African region, and we provide them with services and parts.

“Besides the brands, we also have our services: Mercedes-Benz Financial Services, Truckstore for our used trucks, Fleetboard—our fleet management system—and driver training,” Hafkamp says.

The introduction of the Actros

The new Actros, which DTBSA launched last year, has replaced a legend in the industry. So it has really had to deliver!

The company is delivering on their promise of a five to seven per cent reduction in fuel consumption—it is the most efficient truck in the industry. So far, they have received great feedback from operators. They are increasing volumes and are on the way back to number one market share.

Hafkamp explains that, unlike its predecessor, the new Actros is exclusively available as a truck tractor, in both air and steel suspension. Rigid distribution, construction, off-road and specialised application vehicles are supported by the new Arocs models.

“We also wanted to implement it with a competitive edge. How do you distinguish yourself from your competition? Thus, we have introduced it with the Euro III and the Euro V engines. This is quite unique in our country.

“Very importantly, we positioned ourselves in road efficiency, as with all our Mercedes brands, meaning we offer low total cost of ownership, being high on safety and maximum uptime, longer service intervals, good parts availability and systems in place for the effective monitoring of the truck.

“The Actros is delivering on its promise and is the clear market leader—that is not my opinion, but the customer’s opinion,” he says.

Rigid trucks

The decision to introduce the Arocs range of rigid trucks was primarily to try to replicate the success of Actros with the new range, targeting distribution and construction segments. Traditionally, construction and distribution clients have not focussed as strongly as long haul operators on fuel efficiency, but with fuel comprising 30 to 50% of the total cost of ownership even in these sectors, fuel economy has become vital.

“With the new Arocs, we anticipate a fuel efficiency of between three to five per cent, depending on the application,” he adds.

The market outlook

2018 was a good year for DTBSA and the expectation for 2019 is one of growth in the truck market, especially in the long haul segment. This is a key indicator of economic growth, especially as long haul means more raw materials and freight.

The second half of 2018 and the first half of 2019 will see a growing trend but the biggest challenge will be the construction sector, which is under pressure at the moment.

This is significant for DTBSA as, over the last few years, the profitability of customers has come under significant pressure and the company has had to adapt to a changing market.

“You can have the hardware—the truck—but are you able to offer financing? Are you able to offer things like service contracts? We offer fleet management systems to our customers. It is almost a kind of partnership, where we are providing the customer with a transport solution.

We don’t sell trucks, we sell solutions, selling in a b2b environment, and that is really changing the industry at the moment,” Hafkamp says.

Twenty years of leadership

Hafkamp’s long background is dedicated to the brand he represents and is backed by a Master’s Degree in Organisational Management and Marketing. He started at Daimler in the Netherlands 20 years ago, helping position the brand in the European market.

A later move to sales and marketing led him to be appointed as the Managing Director of Mercedes-Benz Trucks in the Netherlands, where he took the market share from 9% to 17% during his tenure, no ordinary feat in a competitive market where several other European brands offered stiff competition.

“It is important to get everyone’s buy-in to make a plan feasible. An error some management make is to change the plan too quickly when it doesn’t give the desired results immediately,” he says.

“You have to have patience and if you are convinced you are doing the right things, eventually, you will be successful.” 

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