Foton FT8 casts its spell at Nampo

Foton FT8 casts its spell at Nampo

Bringing a new truck to market in South Africa is a birthing process, resulting from many hours of careful consideration and examining the market. But in an ever-changing world, it also needs a touch of wizardry to predict just what will aid (or scupper) one’s plans. COLIN WINDELL writes that Everstar has achieved exactly that.

The launch of the new Foton FT8 by Ever Star Industries took place at the annual Nampo Harvest Day Show in Bothaville, Free State, under a mercifully warm sun. On hand to explain the truck was senior head of sales, Rodney Selesnick.

“The FT8 is basically a 6.5-tonne, depending on body and application,” he says.  “We rationalised the product lineup, because we did not have a 6.5-tonne offering. The jump from our four-tonne to the eight-tonne was too big for many of our customers, so we needed to introduce something in between that is cost effective and can do a combination of short or long-haul work.”

Selesnick adds that the FT8 has a niche strength, in the form of the FT8 TT tractor sub-model, which was converted in-house to a mini truck tractor. “We have supplied several units into the shipping industry because, in the past, the empty container business was something that was expensive,” he notes, pointing out that maritime law requires one to not only bring in containers, but also be part of their redistribution and resending. In the past, companies were forced to use high-powered tractors designed for full loads. “If you use a 420-hp truck to run empties all day long, you’re running at a loss. We were approached by the shipping guys, and we homologated and tested one unit; it’s been a revolution for moving empty containers over medium to short distances,” says Selesnick.

The new FT8 launches at R448,500 and has a genuine 3.76-litre Cummins direct-injection diesel engine producing 125kW at 2,600r/min and 600Nm of torque from 1,300r/min, driving through a ZF six-speed manual gearbox. “Foton is a ‘JV’ between Mercedes-Benz and Foton, so the quality of the truck and components in the partnership is of a very high standard,” Selesnick notes. 

He says that now, many European and other manufacturers have seen the market need for a more cost-effective solution. The cost of European trucks has escalated dramatically, and – as seen in its car onslaught – China can produce very high-quality vehicles with the right spec at the right price.

“That’s becoming key, especially in Africa,” Selesnick stresses. “We wanted to be a competitor against the Japanese product, so obviously it had to be well built – with better specs in many respects – and offer a low TCO.”

This, he adds, is partly the reason for the FT8’s manual gearbox: “I have seen far better total lifecycle cost out of a truck with a manual gearbox. The more basic you can keep the technology, the cheaper it is to run. Our parts and major components are much more competitively priced than many of our competitors’, so the package is right.”

Foton currently has 32 dealers in Southern Africa in a mix between full sales and service operations, and service dealers, as well as coverage in Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Botswana, Zambia, and Namibia.

Assembled from SKD packs at the company’s factory in Pietermaritzburg, between 100 and 120 trucks are coming off the line every month with around 30% local content included – a figure that may well increase. “Our main warehouse also has more than R100 million in parts stock. All the dealers around the country have supplies of the fast-moving parts, as well as a few of those we know could be subject to failure because of minor damage or accidents,” Selesnick concludes.

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Focus on Transport

FOCUS on Transport and Logistics is the oldest and most respected transport and logistics publication in southern Africa.
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