Building brand awareness – BIG time!
Iveco is taking southern Africa by storm, with the Johannesburg Truck & Bus Show, co-located with the Johannesburg International Motor Show (JIMS) 2013, bearing testimony to this. JACO DE KLERK reports.
Bob Lowden, MD of Iveco South Africa, explains that the company’s comeback at JIMS marks a breakthrough. “We have been preparing carefully for this step forward during the last year and a half. We have been working hard. We have turned the business around and now have a solid team in place,” he says. “We have big plans, great new products and important clients who bear testimony to Iveco’s commitment to growth in southern Africa.”
Lowden points out that the total commercial vehicle sales for the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) – which consists of South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and Swaziland – should reach 28 000 units at the end of 2013, which is an 11 percent rise in the last two years.
He adds: “We all know that gaining ground in a fast-growing market is more difficult than in a stable environment, but we have managed to achieve exactly this … Starting from a minor position, in two years we have nearly doubled our sales volume, from 800 to 1 400 units, and taken our market share to five percent – an increase of 1,7 percent.”
Lowden continues: “We have performed better than the market average, while many competitors have had mixed results. Also, we managed to break into the top 10 makes in the market.” He says that Iveco is happy with the progress, but not yet satisfied. “The first part of our job has been accomplished: we have learnt the ropes and paved the road. And now we are ready for the next phase … ”
This includes some ambitious plans, evident by the company’s stand and the new models it launched. The former comprised a 400 m2 indoor stand and a 775 m2 stand outdoors. On display was the new Euro-5 Stralis Hi-Way; a new Trakker with a Hi-Land 6×4 cab and another with a Hi-Land 6×4 rigid cab; a new Euro-3 Eurocargo for the African market; a current 14-tonne Eurocargo; a 65-seater front engine bus; a Daily 4×4 with a chassis cab and a new Daily Euro-4 luxury minibus and panel van.
The new Daily sports a truck-style chassis frame, rear-wheel drive, common rail fuel injection and turbocharged diesel engine and offers up to 17,2 m3 of loading space at an interior height of 210 cm. The vehicle has a six-speed transmission and up to seven tonnes gross vehicle mass.
The 50C15 minibus model, commercialised for the local African market, features a Euro-4 engine that delivers either 107 kW (150 hp) or 127 kW (170 hp). Other technologies include stop-start functionality and gearshift indicator systems that, as Iveco states, help drivers to improve their driving style. These advancements also reduce fuel consumption and CO2 emissions by up to 10 percent, compared to the previous Daily.
Safety features include the latest generation electronic stability programme (ESP) that utilises active sensors, including: an anti-lock braking system; electronic brakeforce distribution; anti-slip regulation traction control; hill holder; active load control; hydraulic fade brake control; roll movement intervention and hydraulic rear wheel boost – which increases rear-axle brake force when activity is detected on the front-axle air brake system.
“In South Africa, the total medium commercial vehicle market comprises some 4 800 units per year,” Lowden points out. “Our market share is already at 18 percent, but the new Daily will give us the momentum to grow further.” He adds that the company plans to achieve a 20 percent market share by the end of 2014.
Looking to the future, the new Eurocargo was just a preview. “We are planning to launch the vehicle in the second half of next year,” explains Lowden. “The Eurocargo is the most versatile heavy truck on the market as it has over 11 000 variants to suit every application, including a 4×4 version.”
He adds that it’s a vehicle especially engineered for bodybuilding. “It allows easy installation of any kind of superstructure thanks to its completely flat and free upper chassis structure.” Lowden adds that its 220 cm cabin and 12,4 m turning circle guarantee high manoeuvrability even on the narrowest roads.
“The new Eurocargo is the product that will allow us to substantially expand into the South African heavy market, which is 10 600 units strong,” notes Lowden. It will also be the first truck to be locally assembled by Iveco.
Luca Sra, head of Africa and Middle East region at Iveco, explains: “The decision to establish an Iveco production plant in South Africa comes from our strategy of manufacturing globally, while tailoring products for local needs.”
He adds that it is a commitment over time that will bring the company considerable advantages, including: the completion and optimisation of Iveco’s product offering in line with its customers’ requirements, an addition of local content, heightened competitiveness due to the local assembly and an improvement of Iveco’s eligibility for bus tenders.
“With these objectives in mind, we have formed a local industrial joint-venture with the Larimar Group, a leading South African public transport operator and bus manufacturer,” Sra points out. Larimar is a diversified group of companies with interests in passenger transport, freight transport and vehicle production as well as retail, engineering, manufacturing, financial services and real estate.
Located in Rosslyn, near Pretoria and due to open next year, the new production facility will be a completely knocked-down assembly plant with a planned investment of R530 million. “When fully operational it will employ 1 000 people. It will have a level four BBBEE ranking and a production capacity of 5 000 units a year, which includes commercial vehicles of all ranges – both for the SACU market and export,” notes Sra.
He adds: “The trucks will be marketed by Iveco South Africa to the entire southern African region through its existing distribution network, while the buses will be distributed directly by the joint-venture.”
Lowden points out that the Iveco 65-seater 180E Bus will be one of the vehicles assembled in South Africa. “It will be our first bus to be produced here. It is a high-floor, front-engine bus, specifically developed for South Africa with local needs in mind.” The vehicle is powered by a Tector 5,8-litre Euro-3 engine.
However, the true star of the new product line-up is the Stralis Hi-Way, Iveco’s flagship in the extra-heavy segment and winner of the 2013 European Truck of the Year Award. “We all know that the most pressing demand of our customers is fuel economy and the Stralis Hi-Way offers a wide and integrated range of functions to improve efficiency,” says Lowden.
These include the Ecoswitch control, which optimises torque performance, and its 13-litre common rail Euro-5 engine, delivering between 260 kW (350 hp) and 370 kW (500 hp), with electronic variable geometry turbocharger – promising savings in fuel and servicing costs.
Safety features include an electronic braking system, which now has a brake assist function for even more rapid and effective braking; ESP; adaptive cruise control; hill holder and a lane departure warning system – which warns drivers when a vehicle crosses the traffic lane lines without the indicators.
As for the cabin, the Stralis is available in two widths: the premium Hi-Way cab, which is 250 cm wide and available in a high- and low-roof sleeper cab; and the medium cab (230 cm wide), available as a Hi-Road sleeper cab with a choice of medium, high- and low-roof configurations. The medium cab is also available as a Hi-Street day cab, which is a low-roof version.
But the Hi-Way isn’t the only vehicle with a revamped cabin as the new Trakker also joins the party. “It delivers off-road power and on-road comfort,” Lowden points out. The model offers two cabin options: the Hi-Land short cab with low-roof and the Hi-Track long cab, which is designed for overnight missions and is available in low- or high-roof versions.
The Trakker’s Cursor 13-litre common rail engine is available in 280 kW (380 hp) and 310 kW (420 hp) versions, sporting a fixed geometry turbocharger with waste-gate, and a 320 kW (440 hp) derivative that has a variable geometry turbocharger.
“Off-road customers need a vehicle that is able to cover the most challenging terrains,” Lowden emphasises, “and the Trakker offers ample choice of tailor-made solutions – with two-, three or four-axle versions from 4×2 to 6×6 all-wheel drive.” Suspensions include semi-elliptical, parabolic and pneumatic systems.
“To complete our off-road line-up, I want to remind everyone that the Iveco Astra dumpers, including its HD and HHD range, are also available here in South Africa,” Lowden points out. The company presented the new Iveco Astra HD9 at JIMS.
Lowden says that this complete product range is designed to answer the needs of South African customers in every market niche. “But excellence in product is not enough without excellence in service.”
To improve its service offering Iveco has launched various programmes. “First of all we are working hard to improve both Iveco’s territorial coverage and the quality of our assistance,” Lowden explains. “By 2017, we plan to increase our number of dealers, points of sales and service points.” He adds that the search is on for more partners to increase the brand’s footprint.
And Iveco South Africa now also offers in-house financing through an alliance with Standard Bank. “Internal retail finance specialists will help to manage this sensitive process and will lend their expertise to both dealers and customers,” Lowden emphasises.
The company has also created a used truck department to manage the offer of trade-ins and buy-backs. “Most importantly, we are supporting our dealers in their own used vehicle trade activities,” says Lowden.
So with its new services, product offerings and manufacturing plant, Iveco’s next phase of ambitious plans kick off. “For 2014 we have set a sales target of 2 000 units with an overall seven percent market share,” Lowden reveals.
And, with its customers’ reviews, this goal seems to be firmly in Iveco’s grasp. “The vehicles are very fuel efficient; their payloads are great as they’re lighter than those of their competitors – and they’re reliable,” says Louis Maritz, operations director at Ni-Da Transport – which has 105 Iveco trucks in its fleet. “And the after-sales service is wonderful. You don’t have a problem if the truck breaks down at a remote location, as Iveco will sort it out.”
Hennie Lubbe, technical director at Ni-Da Transport, adds that the company’s drivers like Iveco vehicles as they offer great ride comfort. He adds that the new range is wonderful. “You can see that the company has made a few changes that clients had requested, addressing things that were slight bugbears in the previous range.”
So, as Lowden points out, Iveco is launching an all-round offensive and the company’s customers are noticing the difference. Maritz adds: “Iveco is definitely on the right route with its products and its offer on trade-ins. The company is definitely going to be a major player in the South African market.”