UD Trucks is optimising its vehicle range for the African market to solidify its long-term commitment to the brand promise of ‘going the extra mile’.
THE SMART CHOICE FOR ULTIMATE DEPENDABILITY
Driven by a long-term commitment to continuous improvement and brand leadership, UD Trucks has set its sights on securing the number-one slot in the medium duty market in South Africa, in a bid to get closer to its customers.
This target is by no means far away, with the Company currently sitting among the top three contenders. Led by the wider Volvo Group’s brand focused strategy – having previously been a part of Nissan Diesel – UD Trucks’ strong market presence is a product of its evolution over time.
“Despite the name change to UD Trucks in 2010 as a means to unify our identity as a global brand, we have been present in South Africa since 1962,” recalls Rory Schulz, Marketing Director of UD Trucks. “We were one of the first manufacturers who brought back the OE engine from Nissan Diesel in the 1990s and in the early 2000s, we became the first Japanese Company to seriously enter the truck-tractor market in South Africa; in total we now have more than 35,000 units on the roads.”
Epitomised in the brand promise of ‘going the extra mile’, UD Trucks South Africa offers products with a high level of fuel efficiency, uptime, reliability, durability and drivability; while meeting today’s demanding safety and environmental standards with modern technology. The Company has around 40,000 medium and heavy duty vehicles in operation across sub-Saharan Africa, accompanied by a full after-sales service; including servicing and maintenance contracts which have been developed over the years to address the needs of the local market.
GOING THE EXTRA DISTANCE
Split into two parts, UD Trucks’ brand promise embraces the current and future industry trends that will ultimately shape the future of logistics on Africa’s roads.
“In South Africa, there is a dichotomy in terms of whether the country are seen as an emerging or developed market, and we reflect this trend in the kind of products we bring to the market, making sure each vehicle demonstrates our commitment to ‘going the extra distance’ and ‘making the extra effort’; the two strings of our brand promise,” Schulz offers. “For example, we have a high-end, heavy duty range that deals with the more sophisticated customer, the Quon range, which was introduced in South Africa in 2012; then in the mid-price range we introduced the heavy-duty Quester last year. The latter was the first product made by UD Trucks that was specifically tailored for the developing market and will be one of many lined-up to be released under this guise.”
One of the big driving factors globally that all vehicle manufacturers have to consider is of course fuel economy and reducing their carbon footprint. Thanks to the wider Group’s firmly-rooted sustainability goals, UD Trucks is proud to be one-step ahead of the curve in South Africa and is already in a position to meet the Euro 5 emissions standards that could be imposed on the market soon.
“Our promise is more than just enabling exceptional fuel efficiency; it is about delivering products with world-class durability and reliability that meet the high safety and environmental demands of today. This has been achieved through our relentless focus on dependability through the global state-of-the-art driveline solutions utilised by the wider Volvo Group,” Schulz adds.
A further element of this efficiency strategy is making sure that each vehicle is adapted for use in the local South African environment where possible, which is exemplified in UD Trucks’ aggressive approach in the mining industry. Schulz highlights: “As part of our continuous improvement, we have invested in the adaptation of our vehicles for this market, where conditions are known to be a lot harsher in South Africa. We deliberately did not take a more domestic product directly from Japan. Instead, we adapted it to local conditions with improved suspension, chassis strength, better air filtration systems to cope with the dust and other attributes to improve the dependability of our vehicles.
“Elsewhere, we are looking at updating our aging medium duty range and replacing this with 13 new iterations under the Quester name, due for release in the second quarter of 2017. The vehicle will blend together the qualities required in both developed and emerging markets. Some of these exciting concepts will be unique to the UD Truck’s offering in Africa; further solidifying our market-leading position.”
MAKING THE EXTRA EFFORT
Epitomised in the second part of its brand promise is the commitment to go the extra mile for customers. Building relationships in this industry is crucial given the considerable cost of each vehicle and the competitive nature of the industry.
“In terms of sales, particularly in South Africa, we find that a lot of customers want some direct contact with the OEM, so we have bolstered our fleet sales department to cater for this,” says Schulz. “From these sales reps right down to our workshop mechanics, all of our employees on the frontline stay in close contact with customers so they can identify and solve any potential challenges. It is imperative that we facilitate a direct relationship between ourselves –as the OEM – and the customer to ensure they have the right tools to take their business to the next level.”
Accompanied by a direct marketing approach – comprising face-to-face interactions at annual events and also through its dealer network – UD Trucks is also making sure to keep-up with the latest digital marketing interactivity methodologies; including opening communication channels on social media for certain products.
“With our professional and passionate approach, we are able to leverage the wider Group’s rich resources to provide products for customers, big and small. In South Africa, there are a lot of smaller organisations that we have identified who require quality vehicles. Therefore, we make sure to assess and provide for their needs in addition to bolstering our existing ties with the bigger purchasers; both are equally important customers for UD Trucks,” Schulz emphasises.
Optimising the world-famous Japanese assembly standards and operating methodologies to suit the South African market, UD Trucks’ facility in Rosslyn is fully equipped for local assembly of around 6,000 units a year at full capacity.
With a team that is proudly 100 percent South African, the Company is keen to boost the local manufacturing and skills development in the country; with vehicles brought in, in a semi-knockdown state in accordance with the regulations set out by the Department of Trade and Industry.
“This means our vehicles can be brought in duty-free, which of course assists with the affordability of the vehicles locally,” Schulz says. “We see competence and local skills development as a social responsibility, not just a requirement; whether we retain our employees for the long-term or not, we support them through apprenticeships and other educational programmes. We train in excess of 600 people a year on an ongoing basis.”
Elsewhere, UD Trucks is also committed to working closely with the South African Government to improve total manufacturing in the country, so that the Company – and others in the medium/heavy duty truck market – can source more parts locally.
Over the next 12 months, UD Trucks will take stock of its current market positioning and bolster its customer-centric processes to ultimately get even closer to the customer on a continuous basis; from considering a purchase, through to after-sales.
“This will help us to grow orders for the new Quester range coming next year and will also put us in a strong position to take the number-one slot in the medium duty market,” Schulz says. “Beyond this, we will be focusing on improving our support structures across Southeast Africa with the launch of the Quester range in these markets as well. This range really merges the best qualities of a vehicle more suited to emerging markets, with the qualities more familiar in developed markets.”
He concludes: “To better capitalise on the emerging opportunities in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, we are in the process of appointing a new partner so that we can re-energise our efforts in Southeast Africa. To summarise, we strive to emulate what we are doing in South Africa in the neighbouring regions as part of a long-term strategy.
“As we have held a presence in South Africa for more than half a decade, we are driven by this long-term evolution strategy. By adapting a world-leading product for the local markets on the continent, we hope this will take us forward into the future.