What a show!

The 2011 Johannesburg International Motor Show upheld its reputation as a world-class display of the latest commercial vehicles and buses, writes VIC OLIVER.

The show, which remains one of the top commercial vehicle events in Africa, provided transport operators with a host of opportunities to interact with the major commercial vehicle and bus manufacturers and explore all the latest models and services.

And, according to feedback from exhibitors and visitors alike, the event was a roaring success. Exhibitors told me that the show was very well organised. The only complaint was that traffic control into the parking areas was poor.

The commercial vehicle and bus stands were all world-class and it was a pity that three of the major commercial vehicle manufacturers in the country elected not to participate at the show. In my opinion they missed a major opportunity to display their products and interact with potential and existing customers.

Driven by market demand, many of the commercial vehicle manufacturers at the show concentrated their focus on vehicle efficiency and cleaner burning exhaust emissions. The clear focus was that of offering customers environmentally friendly vehicles with the lowest possible lifetime costs.

Many other added value vehicle support products that enhance low lifetime vehicle costs were well communicated to existing and potential customers at the show. These included longer warranty periods, extended service intervals, competitive maintenance contracts, driver training, fleet management programmes, and finance packages.

In addition, manufacturers highlighted their dealer networks in South Africa and the back-up services that are available to assist their customers to keep their vehicles on the road.

With the growing demand for new vehicles to be supplied from South Africa into sub-Saharan African countries, many of the South African manufacturers and distributors stated that they are increasing their sales efforts and vehicle back-up support in these countries with the hope of growing their market share in Africa.

Many of the manufacturers criticised the government and the fuel companies for not forging ahead with upgrading our fuel from 50 ppm (parts per million) to 10 ppm. They stated – quite rightly – that, without 10 ppm fuel, they were unable to offer their customers the latest, fuel efficient and clean-burning engines.

The question remains: Who is to blame for the delay in proceeding to upgrade our fuel? The fuel companies say the cost of upgrading their refineries is unaffordable at this stage and the government is only aiming to introduce the Euro-5 exhaust emission standard in 2017.

Is it now not time for the commercial vehicle manufacturers and operators to increase the pressure on the government and the fuel companies to upgrade our fuel? Especially when you consider the major financial benefit to the country that would be gained from running trucks and buses with low fuel consumption. An added benefit would also be a cleaner carbon footprint for South Africa.

This year’s stands and displays representing Chinese and Indian manufactured vehicles were much bigger than previous show years, illustrating how desperate these manufacturers are to gain a bigger slice of the South African market. These manufacturers have also decided to enter the highly competitive high-horsepower long-distance segment of the market. With fast, continuous improvements to their products, it will be interesting to see what percentage of this market they will be able to penetrate in the coming years.


One of this country’s most respected commercial vehicle industry authorities, VIC OLIVER has been in this industry for 45 years. Before joining the FOCUS team, he spent 15 years with Nissan Diesel, 11 years with Busaf and seven years with International.

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