There is always a sense of excitement and restrained tension surrounding a truck launch, or as is the case here, a re-launch. In this case, the excitement revolved around the re-launch of the DAF truck brand in South Africa which saw DAF Trucks NV (a Paccar company) ratify an agreement with the Africa division of Babcock International Group, a leading UK engineering support services company, for the marketing, sales and service activities of DAF trucks and Paccar Parts in the South African market.
Initially, Babcock will establish three new premises for the sales and service of DAF trucks, beginning with Johannesburg in August this year, followed by Durban and Cape Town. The South African DAF network will further comprise 10 existing service dealers.
In order to guarantee a first class parts and accessories supply, Babcock has signed an additional contract with PACCAR Parts and a 1200 m2 national parts distribution centre is to be established in Johannesburg.
Babcock made it clear at the launch that they are taking on the DAF operation not to sit on the sidelines and play second fiddle to the larger, more established players in the local market. Describing Babcock’s approach as “carefully aggressive’, Roger O’Calaghan, CEO Africa Division, asserts: “We want to grow the DAF truck parc as fast as possible in the shortest possible time frame. Our initial aim is to realise a 10% market share in the heavy truck segment within five years.
“This will correspond to an annual sales volume of 1 000 units, all of them from the CF and XF105 series (see sidebar) in both truck tractor and rigid derivatives aimed at the heavy duty segment where monthly mileages of 15 000 kilometres are no exception.’
Far from avoiding discussions on DAF’s previous and not so successful ventures in South Africa, Babcock aims to capitalise on the fact there are an estimated 2 000 DAF trucks in operation around the country.
Ron Bonsen, director marketing and sales admits that while South African operators of DAF trucks were not left completely high and dry when the company’s previous distribution agreements went awry, after sales service delivery and technical support did not meet acceptable standards and needed improvement.
Bonsen says DAF are proactively engaging with DAF owners and to this end, an “indaba’ was held with 115 DAF owners the day after the official announcement of the DAF Trucks , Babcock alliance. FleetWatch was not privy to what took place at this meeting but it would have been a great moment to be a fly on the wall.
Bonsen is aware that to rekindle a positive image of the DAF brand in South Africa will require a lot of expertise and an in-depth knowledge of the local trucking arena and all its quirks. “DAF has embarked on a crucial recruitment drive of the best trucking minds South Africa has to offer,’ he says, “I really believe this is the only way to go.’
Further challenges facing the new custodians of DAF Trucks in South Africa are a lack of readily available finance for commercial vehicles coupled to the current low trade in value for used DAF trucks. In response to this, Bonsen says Babcock and DAF are jointly engaged in discussions with major banks and finance houses with the aim of establishing “financial partnerships.’ He does not foresee problems over the raising of finance for would be customers.
For those who cannot always keep abreast of what is going on in the overseas truck markets, DAF, it appears, has a track record of excellence stretching back over a decade.
“In the 1990s,’ Bonsen reveals, “DAF was one of the smaller truck makers supplying the European market. Today it holds 22% of the heavy truck segment (over 15 tons) and is gunning for the number one spot in 2010.
Commenting on the new agreement, Bonsen says Babcock’s extensive experience and ongoing success in the field of the distribution of construction equipment will be of great value.