The end is nigh?
Just as we think we’re out of the rough, the rand plummets and fuel prices soar to ridiculous heights. But it isn’t all doom and gloom – especially if you look at the extra-heavy commercial vehicle market.
South Africa took the global financial meltdown with a fair amount of grace as the country managed to stay on its feet while much of the world staggered. However, prophets of doom are having a field day as our growth forecast got slashed by the World Bank in May, and again by the International Monetary Fund around July. And, adding to the cynicism of the “gloom-sayers”, fuel prices continue to ascend while the rand depreciates … .
But, the extra-heavy commercial vehicle (EHCV) segment is painting a different picture, with the first half of 2013 delivering some interesting figures as reported by the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of South Africa (Naamsa). The South African truck market grew by 6,8 percent when compared to the equivalent six month period last year – with the EHCV big boys continuing to lead with a 43,1 percent penetration at the end of the second quarter.
Casper Kruger, vice president of Hino in South Africa, comments: “Given the concerns that have been widely expressed over conditions in the South African economy during the first half of 2013, together with continuing difficulties being experienced in some of our most important export markets, this outcome for the local truck market can only be described as extraordinary.”
He continues: “Although there have been some signs that the slide in rand foreign exchange values may be slowing down, the recent announcement of a steep increase in local fuel prices, despite the stabilisation of the international oil price, still presents a serious short-term challenge to the transport community. This provides strong rationale for updating fleet technology with the latest in products and management systems.”
Kruger adds that, despite the difficulties being experienced in South Africa’s traditional overseas export markets, business between our country and neighbours to the north have been expanding rapidly. “This has undoubtedly added a measure of weight to the local demand for commercial vehicles.”
However – perhaps to the delight of the prophets of doom – it’s possible that the figures were influenced by some pre-emptive buying, with operators pulling their procurement forward to avoid the full impact of vehicle price increases (due to the depreciation of the rand versus the United States dollar, Chinese yuan and the euro).
But these exchange rates aren’t the be-all and end-all in our industry … “The relative performance of the rand, since the beginning of this year, against other important commercial vehicle sourcing currencies – such as the Brazilian real and Japanese yen – has been considerably stronger,” Kruger points out. “This has important implications for the competitive balance within the market.”
So all hope isn’t lost as it would seem that the commercial vehicle market is picking up – with the EHCV segment taking the lead – and South Africa increases its trade with the rest of the continent and the rand keeps some of its “integrity”.
But we’ll soon see if the growth of the EHCV segment has continued, as the results of the third quarter will be announced any day now, or if economic conditions have taken their toll and the pre-emptive buying played a big role … “The reported results of the months immediately ahead will, therefore, be very important in determining the ultimate magnitude of the 2013 truck market,” notes Kruger.
An extra-special extra-heavy
Trucks play an important role in the transport and logistics industries of all countries, and even more so in South Africa, with extra-heavy commercial vehicles (EHCV) crowned kings of the long-distance road … It’s no wonder that these workhorses are the leaders in the local truck market, in terms of number of units sold, and that they are admired by industry players the world over.
Mika Auvinen, a transport operator from Finland’s capital, Helsinki, has taken his admiration to the next level – treating these majestic machines as canvases for his artistic expression.
But Auvinen’s latest creation, a silo truck-trailer combination with a new Mercedes-Benz Actros as its tractor unit, was inspired by the canvas itself. “The new Actros is so far ahead in terms of technology and design that you could almost believe that it comes from the future,” he points out. “It was obvious that the truck was going to be given a futuristic motto.” And so the Xtar, pronounced “star”, was born.
The inspiration for this peculiar name came from the Mercedes-Benz star. “We simply replaced the ‘s’ with a ‘x’, and the whole thing somehow sounds like the future.” And that’s not the only thing that’s futuristic, as the extensive airbrush work shows every imaginable type of spaceship or female warrior from distant worlds.
“What I like most are the many details that you don’t notice to begin with,” Auvinen explains while looking at the Xtar lettering above the co-driver’s door, which has a kind of stardust glitter. “That’s a special varnish, which had to be applied in several layers. You only see the effect when the sun shines on it.”
As it is, the Auvinen provides plenty for its customers to talk about since it’s been placed in operation on regular trips since the beginning of this year. However, it also grabbed some global shine at this year’s Nordic Trophy – a prestigious truck festival in Sweden – where like minded artists gather … .