MAN has a new MD – and operators have a new partner

MAN has a new MD – and operators have a new partner

There’s a new man at the helm of MAN Automotive South Africa. CHARLEEN CLARKE meets Jan Aichinger, the company’s newly-appointed managing director. She reports that his arrival in the country is great news for transport operators, MAN dealers, and MAN staff members alike.

South Africa is special to Aichinger – previously managing director of MAN Truck & Bus Russia – and his family. “We had a wonderful three years here in South Africa, which encompassed the Soccer World Cup. The world was coming to South Africa and there was a lot of excitement in the country. We have a lot of positive memories of the country. Most importantly, one of our children was born in South Africa. When one of your kids is born somewhere, it gives you a strong connection to that particular country,” he explains.

Aichinger’s current role represents his fifth expat assignment. “I always want to connect with the people in the country that is my temporary home, and that’s happening once again. The warmth of the welcome this time around has been the same. I love the way that you’re not viewed as a foreigner; you’re viewed as someone who is part of the country. This country is blessed with so many things: the various cultures, the nature, the food… it’s an honour to be back here,” he says.

Of course, South Africa isn’t without its challenges. “The challenges start with load shedding, but it is not only that – we are experiencing extraordinary increases in material costs. We have a currency issue, which doesn’t make this easier… There have certainly been times when it was more attractive to invest in South Africa,” he notes.

Does this mean that MAN could pull out of South Africa? “Oh no, I can’t see that at all. We have invested in our production facilities, our dealer network, our staff, and new products for the market. We have some news coming in the near future that will show our continued commitment to invest in the market,” he reveals.

Aichinger is known for being passionate about the MAN brand, hands-on, and extremely approachable. He says that a highlight of his new role will be meeting with the South African customers.

Aichinger is also confident that market volumes will return to pre-Covid numbers. “The bus and coach market obviously remains challenging. This is a market that was depressed during Covid – as was the case in many other markets around the world. But truck sales have bounced back and I’m confident that the bus side of the business will come back too. Every market has its waves; markets aren’t stable,” he elaborates.

Additionally, not every market has the diversity of products seen in South Africa. “This market has long been a melting pot for all worldwide brands. It’s an incredibly different market from Russia, where you have one brand – Kamaz – dominating. We’re now seeing a lot of Chinese brands in our market, for example,” he points out.

Nevertheless, Aichinger is convinced that, going forward, MAN can rise to the various challenges it is facing. Not because of his arrival in the country though… “As a team, we are making really good progress. It’s my honour to lead that team,” he says.

That “team theme” personifies Aichinger’s entire outlook. “I was raised as a team player and I have played hockey my whole life. For me, it’s the sum of all players rather than one single player making a difference,” he stresses.

Finally, what can transport operators in South Africa expect from him? “I’m very focused on creating partnerships. Transport operators can expect me to go the extra mile and they can expect a partnership,” Aichinger promises.

We reckon that this will be music to the ears of any transport operator right now. When times are tough (and some say that they are), a good partner is exactly what is needed.

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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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