Reaching towards ultimate dependability
When Johan Richards, chief operating officer of Nissan Diesel South Africa, stepped up to the podium to receive the FOCUS on Excellence Award for Best Truck Supplier, yet another significant milestone was marked in the history of a truck manufacturer that has enjoyed a long and extremely successful presence in the South African road transport industry. FRANK BEETON reports…
When the first Nissan Diesel trucks arrived in South Africa in the early 1960s, vehicles from Japan were still a relative novelty in this country. While it did not take long for local buyers to appreciate the virtues of the lighter vehicles from the Land of the Rising Sun, typically conservative transport operators took a little more convincing, especially when confronted by the somewhat unconventional two-stroke diesel engines fitted to the early Nissan Diesel trucks. However, it soon became evident that Nissan Diesel was here for the long haul, and as subsequent generations of product were introduced, the brand enjoyed progressively larger shares of the local truck market.
Nissan Diesel has always demonstrated an exceptionally high level of commitment to its South African business, typified by direct participation in setting up key dealerships in the early days, extensive local testing and development of products, and exemplary aftermarket support in the areas of servicing and parts availability. During the 1980s, when the compulsory fitment of locally manufactured Atlantis Diesel Engines and ASTAS transmissions drove many lesser brands away from the market, Nissan Diesel enthusiastically took on the engineering challenge of adopting standardised local components, and extended its market coverage upward into the premium payload segments.
With the subsequent removal of the stringent local content requirements in the ‘90s, Nissan Diesel moved rapidly to reintroduce “thorough-bred” products, and, once again, expanded its marketing footprint at both ends of the payload spectrum, to include both medium commercials, and a high-powered truck-tractor for use on line-haul duties. In subsequent years, the product range has been continuously refined, and updated, to keep abreast of market requirements and operator preferences, to the point where Nissan Diesel has become firmly entrenched as the third largest supplier of commercial vehicles over 3 500 kg gross vehicle mass to South African operators.
One of the important side benefits of a long and successful history in the local market is the huge population of Nissan Diesel vehicles currently operating at the foot of the African continent. It is estimated that, of the more than 60 000 Nissan Diesels that have entered the local vehicle population over the past 47 years, some 39 000 remain in regular service. This impressive statistic adds huge value to the Nissan Diesel franchise, in that dealers are given the opportunity to provide parts and service for vehicles well beyond the limits of warranties and service contracts. The survival of so many vehicles also speaks volumes for their inherent quality, and the efforts of the factories in Japan, and South Africa, to ensure that products are properly engineered and prepared for service under arduous African conditions.
The recent success of Nissan Diesel’s UD440 and Quon vehicles in the premium extra-heavy category of the South African market has raised many eyebrows. No other extra-heavy vehicle of Japanese origin has approached the levels of acceptance attained by these vehicles, which can now be seen working in some of the country’s largest and most prestigious fleets. Notwithstanding the undeniable integrity of its lighter vehicles, Nissan Diesel’s achievement in penetrating the most demanding and unforgiving operating environment at the top end of the payload spectrum provides ample justification for the Best Truck Supplier award.