A world full of opportunities

A world full of opportunities

Looking back at the year just gone: 2020 was just a little bit different from other years. Covid-19 coloured the year, but not everything was negative, says Harry Wolters, CEO of DAF Trucks. “We tackled the Corona crisis well. DAF Trucks is working as before. On New Year’s Eve, with an ‘oliebol’ [a traditional Dutch treat] in one hand and Champagne in the other, I looked forward to 2021 with confidence.” TTM.nl’s ARJAN VELTHOVEN reports.

TTM.nl can meet Harry Wolters in person. At 1,5 metres distance, of course, and the face mask is not allowed to come off until we are seated at the table. The large meeting table, that is, at the headquarters of DAF Trucks in Eindhoven.

Does a president-director also work from home? Or doesn’t that suit the job?

I work from home, one day a week. Our employees work from home as much as possible. In the office, of course, but not the production staff. We are now experienced in meeting in Teams. It’s not preferable to real life. One-to-one meetings in Teams are still possible, but with a large group… We try to be as effective as possible with protocols in online meetings.

In March 2020 Corona broke out in the Netherlands. When did DAF think: we have to do something about this?

Of course, it was already happening at the end of 2019, early 2020. At that time, the focus was on securing the flow of parts from China. The problem then moved to Italy. After that, the virus got closer and closer and it turned out that 1,5 metres distance was wise to ensure the health of our employees. But assembling lorries with 1,5 metres between employees is not possible. So, we said: stop. And that is quite something, in a manufacturing industry like ours. You only stop as a last resort. Transport and logistics are vital, it has to keep rolling. So, our dealers remained open, even though they had less work. They, along with the customers, thought about whether maintenance could be carried out sooner in the event of a standstill. But Paccar Financial and Parts also kept going and continued to assist customers.

Soon we started to redesign the production. The dynamics that then arose are very special. Everyone wants to go in the same direction, although we had never thought about production from a distance of 1,5 metres. But we succeeded. First with one vehicle, then two, try, adjust. And then, fortunately, we were able to produce again, even if it was only twenty cars a day at first. That’s very important because then you can tell a customer who is ordering a truck when it will be ready.

And now everything is still running with the 1,5 metres rule?

Yes, in April we manufactured again here in Eindhoven; in May Leyland participated again. And since then, of course, we have continued to improve. It requires everyone to be adaptable, and I found it wonderful to see how everyone was participating. There was decisiveness, also here with the management. Talking together, sometimes discussing, making a decision, and then that’s the new policy. And everyone is working according to the new rules. And it’s going well. We now produce almost the same number of vehicles per day as before Covid-19.

Not only was production stopped at other truck manufacturers, but there were also layoffs. Sometimes thousands of jobs were lost. Not at DAF. Are you already working so lean?

We are very lean anyway. Every day, we look at our activities and what we may need to adjust. What should not be underestimated is the value of the NOW, the Dutch government help programme. When we stopped production, it created a lot of uncertainty among employees. If you can then use NOW1 and NOW2 to ensure that everything is in order financially, that gives a lot of peace and quiet. I am very grateful to our government for that. Also, because it makes the supply chain strong. If a supplier is otherwise unable or unwilling to supply, you are lost. Then the misery would have been endless.

In the end, 150 temporary workers left us anyway, because in June the recovery didn’t go as we expected. And yes, we have a kind of flexible shell with temporary workers, but we are not talking about laying off 5 000 employees, as some other manufacturers do.

What was the impact of Corona on turnover?

You can see that the European market has lost out. A total of 300 000 units in the heavy-duty segment for the whole EU market was a real goal for 2020, now we have 225 000 to 230 000 units. In other words, two thirds of the volume of 2019, a considerable step backwards. The smaller segment is just under 50 000 units, and there the share of large vans up to 7,5 tonnes is growing strongly. DAF’s market share in Europe remains more or less the same in the heavy segment at 16,2%. In the tractor segment, we are increasing slightly to 19,9%.

The total market share in the Netherlands for this year is 31,5%, which is three-tenths of a percentage point less than in 2019 – but I foresee that we will close December at last year’s level. In the United Kingdom, we are up from 29,4% to 32,1%. That may be the Brexit effect, but we also ran a strong “Building Britain” campaign there. By the way, 2020 was the year of Corona, but it was also the year that the latest generation of models were introduced in all DAF markets. Literally from Colombia to New Zealand, and almost everywhere in between.

I saw several special editions this year. A Super Space Cab Edition, a Unity Edition, and even an Ultimate Package.

That’s much to celebrate. 250 000 Super Space Cabs is quite something, so there will be a special edition. The Unity Edition was created during Covid-19, in France and Spain. There was a real fraternisation in transport during the lockdown. That’s why we made the Unity Edition.

That Ultimate Package looks like the ultimate XF and CF. Will there be a new model CF and XF after that? I saw some black-plated test models driving around…

I heard that too, yes! Those are the sounds we like to cultivate. We send out those black-camouflaged models. All for the story, hey [laughs]. I would keep an eye on TTM.nl. They often have the latest news!

I would love to hear it when the time comes. So, on 31 December 2020 at midnight, you were standing with a glass of Champagne and an oliebol in your hand. How do you feel about 2021?

It is a world full of opportunities. Hopefully, it won’t be as bad as this year. I am positive, it will be a year full of opportunities. There will be vaccines, there will hopefully be some happiness in the world again. We need to build on that fraternity, that determination that we have shown this year, throughout the DAF organisation. I am sure that 2021 is going to bring great things. Black-plated or not…

Success for DAF!

DAF Trucks strengthened its position as a global commercial vehicle manufacturer in 2020. Market share in the European heavy duty (16 tonne+) segment grew to 16,3%, the latest generation trucks were introduced in Taiwan and Brazil, and production of the zero-emission CF Electric was announced, illustrating DAF’s environmental leadership.

In 2020, DAF registered 37 580 trucks on a total European heavy-duty market of 230 400 vehicles, resulting in a market share of 16,3% (2019: 16,2%), which is the second-best market share in the company’s history. The European medium duty truck market (6 to 16 tonne) totalled 41 400 units and DAF’s market share was 9,5% (2019: 9,7%).

DAF continued heavy-duty market leadership in the Netherlands (31,8%), the UK (31,6%), Poland (23,7%), Hungary (27,9%) and Bulgaria (25,4%). The Dutch truck manufacturer also gained 2020 market leadership in Portugal (21,8%). DAF is the European leader in tractors and the number one import brand in the two largest truck markets in Europe: Germany and France. Market share in the heavy-duty rigids segment increased to 11,5%.

Last year, DAF sold 5 880 trucks outside the EU and introduced its latest generation vehicles in Taiwan (Euro 6), Brazil (Euro 5) as well as in the Middle East and Africa (Euro 3 and 5). The 10 000th locally assembled truck was delivered in Taiwan, where DAF is the heavy-duty market leader among European manufacturers. DAF is also the market leader in Israel and Belarus. In 2020, DAF sold more than 2 000 PACCAR engines to leading manufacturers of coaches, buses and special vehicles worldwide.

In 2020, DAF produced more than 37 600 CF and XF trucks and almost 9 000 LF vehicles. “European truck demand improved in the second half of the year along with the European economies,” says Harry Wolters, DAF Trucks President. “It is estimated that the 2021 European truck market will continue to recover and will be in the range of 250 000 to 280 000 trucks. We are ready for further growth by delivering our customers premium quality, exceptional fuel efficiency and superior driver comfort.”


As regular readers of FOCUS know, this magazine has been appointed an associate member of the International Truck of the Year (IToY)! FOCUS is the sole South African magazine to have joined this prestigious body. One of the advantages of this association is access to exclusive articles, specially written for FOCUS by ITOY jury members. This is one such article.

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