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Market leader, Mercedes-Benz South Africa, bullish about the year

“The incredible growth in the extra-heavy segment was remarkable, unexpected and beyond our own forecast…”

Kobus van Zyl, Vice President: Commercial Vehicles at Mercedes-Benz South AfricaKobus van Zyl, Vice President: Commercial Vehicles at Mercedes-Benz South Africa (MBSA), responsible for all Daimler Truck brands, says: “Last year’s overall market was interesting, to say the least, and generally very good for us. From our Mercedes-Benz South Africa stable, we continue to sell one in every three extra-heavy commercial vehicles locally.”

He continues with a smile: “The incredible growth in the extra-heavy segment was remarkable, unexpected and beyond our own forecast. The heavy commercial vehicle segment was disappointing though. “Buoyant bus sales were good for the industry too.

This was mostly due to the fact that the segment came off a low base. This, together with the order fulfilment on public sector tenders and some sales growth from the private sector, also helped push bus sales.

One positive development is that the bus market is not dominated by one channel.  “The medium commercial vehicle segment was flat, but our mid-size vans did well. I suspect that this segment benefitted largely from a shift by customers to ‘upsize’ from the LCV segment.

Mercedes-Benz South Africa “The incredible growth in the extra-heavy segment was remarkable, unexpected and beyond our own forecast.“For the Mercedes-Benz South Africa brands, Mercedes-Benz trucks’ market share grew by 1% overall, but we were slightly down on the Freightliner product.  Our bus business, where we hold the second position, is satisfying. In the Fuso corner we introduced the Canter Lift, which will give us an edge into the medium segment.

“The biggest challenges remain the same – exchange rate fluctuations, labour stability, and pressure in the mining sector, amongst others. These apply to all players equally, however. Thus we have the same playing field as other OEMs.

“Our aim for 2015 is to continue our focus on the customer-centric approach we instituted a number of years ago…”

“Our aim for 2015 is to continue our focus on the customer-centric approach we instituted a number of years ago. We will continue to develop and improve our end-to-end transport solutions. This means that we will stay competitive across the board – from the truck itself; warranty, service and maintenance packages; finance and insurance; fleet management systems; and even onward selling of used trucks.

“None of our competitors can compare to the scope of our solution offering!” Taking a wider view, van Zyl emphasises that it has become the OEMs joint responsibility, together with the public and private sectors, to face head-on various matters affecting the transport industry.

Freightliner trucks - Mercedes-Benz South Africa“These include addressing the scourge of road accidents; the impact of HIV/Aids on the industry; the adherence and implementation of road regulations; and the whole debate around cleaner fuels, amongst many others.” “I believe that 2015 may turn out to be better than 2014. There are new opportunities emerging – exports into Africa, the drive towards greater local beneficiation, the growth of SMMEs and possibly an improvement in the rail infrastructure.”

“We (Mercedes-Benz South Africa) remain confident in our brands, but we are never complacent in our customer relationships!”

Van Zyl intimated that Daimler AG is set to award more responsibility to Mercedes-Benz South Africa in terms of sales and service activities further north into Africa. More news in this regard will follow in the next few months. “We have learnt that a strategic plan is great, but that being able to move and react to market changes swiftly is of far greater benefit.

We have various innovations lined up to serve our changing customer demands. “We remain confident in our brands, but we are never complacent in our customer relationships!” concludes Kobus van Zyl.

 

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Tristan Wiggill
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