Underpinning the resilience of MAN and its continued evolution of best-performance truck and bus products is a genuine concern for humanity and environment.
MAN starts 2021 on the back of the best market share achievement since 2006 in the extra heavy market of the SA Commons Union, with 1 575 trucks sold. This represents a share of 14.2% and bodes well for the giant manufacturer of MAN trucks and buses, not forgetting the VW buses in its stable. While the bus market did not realise similar growth, as a direct result of the Covid-19 pandemic, MAN did retain its dominant market leadership in that sector.
Eren Gunduz, MAN Automotive (South Africa) Chief Operating Officer, is optimistic: “We hope to see an approximate 15% increase in our volumes supplied to the market in 2021, compared to 2020. Much of that growth is going to come out of MAN’s Trucknology® Generation, which is proving to be an excellent fit for the local market.”
It’s a product that is setting TCO benchmarks in many sub-segments, which is not surprising because, as early adopters of technology in the commercial sector, it has had the advantage of setting the standards for merging tech with trucks, as opposed to just keeping abreast. MAN even had the foresight to trademark Trucknology® as far back as two decades ago, at the time making it the largest development project in the company’s history.
“Being a state-of-the-art world-leading corporate conglomerate means MAN benefits from the innovations we enable through our big budget research and development,” says Gunduz. “Our new TG range for example, is chalking up phenomenal fuel efficiency results across Europe. This impacts positively not only on TCO efficiency, but also on carbon footprints.”
The uber focus on fuel efficiency has also turned the spotlight on the marque’s environmentally friendly low-emission diesel engines, which, confirms Gunduz, remains the best fit for African long-haul operations, now and into the future.
Also anticipated for Africa is the adoption of the trend by European distribution segments that are embracing electric and hydrogen powered technology. “It’s really just a matter of time before we see a strong uptake for these technologies in the unique markets of Africa.”
MAN is well represented on the continent. From its base in South Africa, it supplies product to 14 sub-equatorial nations – largely private capital dealerships. It falls to the SA MAN headquarters to cater to those with its Customer Care, Mobile 24 and After Sales Support programmes, which have been significantly refined over the past two years.
At the core of customer experience is MAN’s global philosophy, CustomerFirst. Gunduz explains: “At its heart, CustomerFirst means we listen to the demands of our customers, and innovatively present bespoke solutions for individual needs. This requires agility and flexibility aligned to speed of execution. That we do this effectively means we retain and heighten our long-term contracts with our customers.
“CustomerFirst is intrinsic to the MAN vision, which is to be first choice in transportation through speed, simplicity and efficiency. To support this ambition, we have a clear set of strategic pillars and a corporate value system that is ‘lived’ by every MAN employee, irrespective of department or their individual contribution to the business.”
Gunduz reminds us of the comment made by an industry stalwart some years ago: Treat your customer as #1, and the compliment will be returned in full. “We exist because of our customers. We learn from them constantly and they stretch us to perform at our best. This is a never-ending journey because we always motivate for continual improvement.”
It’s worthwhile to mention here that MAN has been recognised by industry customers as the European brand that offered the best customer service in 2020, arguably, states Gunduz, one of the most important factors that enabled MAN to sustain its residual values despite the global upheaval caused by Covid-19.
What SA MAN customers are asking for currently is more of its long-haul truck tractors. It’s currently offering two of its TGX flagship trucks; one for highway express freight haulage, the other for on-off highway heavy duty and PBS. These 540 horsepower Euro 5 offerings have bigger cabins and showcase exactly what MAN can offer customers who require higher-end specifications.
The stalwart TGS truck tractor range has also been refined, confirms Gunduz. “We now present the market with on-highway EfficientLine air suspension aerodynamic versions, and intermediate on-off road extra heavy duty (XHD) haulers. This range also includes incredibly robust off-road medium haulers, XHD+, which are popular and ideal for mining operations.”
Of course MAN doesn’t only cater to niche industries with its truck tractors, but continues to supply rigid chassis products for all applications across the broader market. “This is also where we will see some exciting product range expansion over the next two years regardless of the Covid-19 pandemic,” says Gunduz.
Of the pandemic’s impacts on the SA market, Gunduz says that it was really interesting to see the resilience of the extra heavy truck market, when compared to other automotive segments last year. “Whilst most saw declines of between 25-30%, extra heavy trucks declined by just 16%. We believe this was because of supplier-driven initiatives that were stimulating demand, and transporter early replacements or expanded contracts that were taken up prior to negative rate of exchange impacts.
“We are like-minded with NAAMSA in terms of its predictions for 2021, that being an expected 15% increase in sales over the disastrous 2020, given that certain sub-industries will remain under pressure, whilst other more buoyant sub-sectors will make necessary fleet replacements after sweating assets longer in recent years, when kilometre utilisations per annum reduced.”
It’s not easy to grow and develop in the time of the Covid-19 pandemic given a shrinking economy, and MAN, like every other business, has had to adjust its way of working. “We seem to have achieved a recipe that is working, judging from the sales successes achieved and levels of customer satisfaction, and for that we thank the entire extended MAN family – customers, suppliers, dealers, media partners, financial institutions, industry peers, country leadership and all those who contribute to investing in our brand,” says Gunduz.
“MAN is ultimately about people, and this is where our concern goes; from offering condolences to those who have lost loved ones, to honouring the front-liners who take the lead in providing essential services and care to our country and our people. The resilience of our staff and patience of our customers truly embody the nature of MAN; that being to keep the wheels turning, be that the economy, or investment in our products, services and MAN people.
“Efficiency, productivity and best possible TCO is MAN’s biggest contribution to the economy. Rolling out our brand pedigree, sound product ranges, great systems and an uncompromising value-based work ethic are all enablers in taking our country into the future that will see a better life for all.”