China’s top truck maker enters the scene

China’s top truck maker enters the scene

Beiqi (pronounced “Bayshi”) Foton Motor Company, China’s leading producer of commercial vehicles, has entered the South African market with a range of trucks that will initially cover the 1,5-ton to 8-ton payload sector but eventually will include heavy to extra heavy trucks and buses as well.

Foton Trucks SA has secured the rights to distribute Foton Commercial vehicles above 1 500 kg in Southern Africa. Foton Trucks SA is a subsidiary of AICC Automotive Imports, which put the vehicles through the required homologation process during the latter part of 2010, according to John Kinghorn, who heads up the new operation.

Foton Motor Company, which produced more than 400 000 vehicles during the first six months of 2010, has built CKD plants in Indonesia, Vietnam, Russia, Mexico, Pakistan, Turkey, Iran and other countries. It has also established complete sales and service networks in Central Asia, Western Asia, South-East Asia, Southern Asia, Africa and Eastern Europe, covering more than 100 countries.

When interviewed late last year, Kinghorn said Foton Trucks SA had already set up five dealerships throughout the country and was in the process of establishing more. Foton Trucks SA had also successfully applied to all major banks for approval as an importer and vehicle distributor.

“We have approached Naamsa (National Association of Automotive Manufacturers of South Africa) and hope to be approved as the 41st member of the association as we will be reporting our sales figures and want to be totally transparent,” he said. “Our message is that we want to be a worthy new entrant, and prove ourselves as a formidable competitor and exciting alternative in the commercial vehicle market.”

Kinghorn said Foton Trucks SA’s sourcing opportunities were “endless”, as Foton Motor Company was China’s biggest commercial vehicle manufacturer with an extensive range of quality commercial vehicles. In this regard, the Foton range of trucks would feature excellent quality and will be positioned between similar Japanese and other Asian-produced trucks from a price perspective.

About two years ago, Beiqi Foton established a joint venture with engine manufacturer Cummins. Foton Trucks established a liaison with Cummins SA and all vehicles that are Cummins powered are covered under the worldwide Cummins engine warranty.

However, the trucks to be launched initially are powered by Foton’s Lovol (Perkins/Phaser) engines with power outputs ranging from 68 kw to 115 kw at 2 600 r/min through 4, 5 and 6-speed synchromesh transmissions. They have a GVM rating ranging between 3 000 kg and 13 200 kg.

Foton Trucks SA operates from impressive headquarters easily visible from the R24 highway near OR Tambo International Airport. The facility includes a warehouse, workshop and parts distribution centre. The premises are owned by prominent businessman Ismail Asmal, who together with a few private investors, has invested in the Foton Trucks SA business. He and his brother Chris (who is responsible for business development in the new venture) are well known businessmen and have been involved in the automotive industry for many years.

When FOCUS visited the site, the premises were a bee hive of activity as a number of completely built-up trucks were being prepared for delivery. Kinghorn said this location augured well for emergency parts distribution in exceptional cases where dealers did not have a part available, although it is a franchise requirement for all dealers to keep a sufficient inventory of parts on hand.

Kinghorn is a Chartered Accountant and also holds an MBA degree from Henley (UK). He has extensive experience in the automotive industry, both at a wholesale and retail level and has consulted to several vehicle manufacturers prior to taking up the position with Foton Trucks SA.

He said the total investment in the new venture was “substantial” and comprised property, various fixed assets and inventory. This would increase in accordance with requirements once the entire Foton Trucks SA operation was up and running as planned.

The date of the official launch of the company will be announced shortly.

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