The proof is in the million
The arrival of Chinese trucks in the South African market has generated a great deal of interest, not least because they appear to offer exceptional value for money, an assumption that POWERSTAR is proving in spades
Mainstream South African operators have the reputation of being extremely conservative and have shown a traditional reluctance to purchase new brands, irrespective of pricing, until ample evidence of their reliability and durability under local operating conditions has been established, and an appropriate level of service and parts support has been proven for the product
Leithcons Civils and Earth Moving, based in Hercules, Pretoria, purchased its first POWERSTAR truck in 2005 and has subsequently acquired a total of 14 similar units. These trucks were put to work in a mixed fleet of 200 on-road vehicles, including directly comparable products of European and Japanese origin, engaged in mining and construction contracts across several provinces of South Africa. Typical operating conditions encountered by Leithcons’ vehicles include working around the clock, seven days a week, on dirt roads, with shifts of drivers taking turns at the wheel to enable distances of 800 km to be covered in a working day.
One of the Leithcons vehicles, a POWERSTAR 26-28K tipper, has now reached the highly significant milestone of one million km travelled, under these arduous conditions, without any unscheduled maintenance to its major components. This unit is a three-axled, tandem-drive, short-wheelbase tipper chassis, rated at a gross vehicle mass (GVM) of 26 t. It is powered by a 9.7-l Weichai WD615 Euro-2-compliant, turbocharged and intercooled six-cylinder diesel engine, developing 206 kW and 1 160 Nm of torque, driving through a nine-speed 5S150 GP synchromesh gearbox to a pair of HL7 hub- reduction rear-drive axles. Other specification features include ZF 8098 power steering, dual-circuit full air brakes, and 315/80 R22,5 tubeless radial tyres mounted on 9.00×22.5 single-piece steel wheel rims.
Leith Polson, managing director at Leithcons, says: “Our original decision to purchase POWERSTAR vehicles was influenced by highly attractive front-end pricing, well-proven major components, and the excellent 10-m2 Cargolite tipping body built at their Pietermaritzburg plant. We recognised that choosing a product with limited operational history in South Africa was a bold move, but we were encouraged by POWERSTAR’s declared commitment to parts supply, and the exceptional value for money that was on offer. We can now say that POWERSTAR has delivered on its promises, and that we are impressed with the minimal downtime experienced with our POWERSTAR trucks, beyond normal monthly servicing. The performance of this vehicle, together with a number of others that are not far behind in terms of distance covered, has totally justified our decision to purchase POWERSTAR, and we plan to add more to our fleet in future”.
Frans Cloete, the man at the helm of the POWERSTAR brand, comments: “The performance of this truck, which has come as no surprise to those of us at POWERSTAR and the Bei Ben plant in China, serves to underline the superb value proposition that these products offer to the South African market. However, we realise fully that our claims of design integrity, durability and serviceability can only be substantiated by operators under real-world conditions, and Leithcons’ experience, detailed above, confirms that POWERSTAR trucks can take on extremely severe local conditions and achieve the levels of performance, reliability and operating economy demanded by the most discerning of operators. Our strategy for Africa is simple: basic design, like-for-like performance, exceptional fuel consumption and service support where you need it when you need it, all at [a] very affordable cost! Now we have achieved them all.”
“Our strategy with POWERSTAR has been to position it differently from other Chinese products in the market, in that we have been fully transparent in reporting our detailed monthly sales volumes to the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of South Africa (Naamsa). To date, more than
1 400 POWERSTAR units have entered service with South African operators, and, with the confirmation and endorsement of the product’s capabilities now provided by the million-kilometre Leithcons vehicle, we have established a solid platform from which to offer our extensive range of premium-payload products to the full spectrum of South African users, from individual owner-drivers to the largest professionally managed fleets, with full confidence.”
POWERSTAR embarks on prosperous future path
Existing and potential POWERSTAR customers are about to receive some extremely positive news. According to sources within the industry, details are about to be announced relating to a newly concluded deal that will see the brand expand its African footprint. Furthermore, existing and potential customers will be assured of world-class parts back-up and customer support.
Precise details of the transaction will be announced shortly; however, we can reveal that a new commercial vehicle assembly and distribution entity will be established. This company will continue to assemble the POWERSTAR range in Pietermaritzburg and will also continue to distribute the vehicles via a dealer network.
The POWERSTAR brand was launched in South Africa in 2006. Manufactured by Beiben in China, the vehicles were an instant hit with transport operators because they were robust, simple to maintain and competitively priced. Furthermore, operators appreciated the fact that the company had opted to avoid using sophisticated computer electronics, which can be both troublesome and extremely costly to repair.
The POWERSTAR brand was so successful in South Africa that, in its first year on the local market, POWERSTAR was ranked seventh in the Naamsa extra-heavy commercial vehicle segment and achieved the largest market share in the tipper truck sub- category.
The company now seeks to further capitalise on the success of the POWERSTAR brand – and further entrench this economical and reliable commercial vehicle in the South African marketplace.
However, it is mindful of the fact that this will only happen if the new company delivers nothing less than world-class customer service; trucks are tools that only earn money as long as their wheels are turning. As such, the company will focus on a number of important areas: customer care, launching advanced products, delivering superior customer service and reliable parts support.
Customers can also expect the launch of new, more advanced products; commercial vehicles that are specifically tailor made for the arduous operating conditions experienced on this continent.