It doesn’t say much for the used truck market if you’ve been operating for the past 27 years as a leading independent dealer group with 13 direct business units (dealers), a turnover of close to R1-billion and a staff compliment of 500 and you have not gone “heavy“ into the used truck business because you’ve been “wary“ of it writes Patrick O‘Leary.
That is what Mike Elsbury, director responsible for AAD Truck and Bus, said at the official opening of the first MAN TopUsed franchise to be issued to an independent dealer outside of the MAN Truck & Bus group dealer network. The dealer is Port Elizabeth Truck & Bus – formerly AAD Truck & Bus – which has been an independent MAN new vehicle sales and service dealership since 2008. It has now added MAN TopUsed to its activities as the first in the country.
Speaking to Elsbury after the formalities, I asked why they had been “weary“ of the used truck side of the industry. His answer was one which is all too often heard in the industry, namely, that “we didn’t know what we were getting or selling“.
During a visit to the USA many years ago, I made a point of visiting a large used truck dealer in Chicago to discuss the workings of the used truck business in America. It was a well-spent afternoon which gave me a good insight into what, over there, is a structured, ordered and professional industry sector. It also gave me a good dose of heartburn after eating what seemed like tons of doughnuts – with icing – and sprinkles – and chocolate. Yuk! They were disgustingly delicious. Anyway, we talking trucks here not food.
The structure and order in the USA was, at that time, in direct contract to a highly disjointed sector operating on our shores. It is an unfortunate fact that for many years, the ‘Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves‘ label was one that attached itself well to the used truck business. Elsbury hits the nail on the head with his words: ‘We didn’t know what we were getting or selling“.
Since then, a greater level of professionalism has entered this sector with the likes of MAN TopUsed and Mercedes-Benz TruckStore upping the game. It must be said that both these organisations – prior to the establishment of their separate and highly focused used truck business units – were also adding to the ingredients of uncertainty.
Independent and specialised used truck dealers such as The Truck Man run by Don Vale – and others – then also came into the game bringing their expert knowledge to bear on bringing order to the chaos.
That’s not to say all were bad. I think here of Edan Traders, an outfit which has been around for – as my late mom would say – donkey‘s years. This is an amazing business whose outside street appearance could deceive one into thinking they are scrap metal dealers. Pop inside, however, and you will find a wealth of knowledge and experience that many rely on for their used truck purchases.
What I am sketching here is a brief path the used truck sector has traveling in going from chaos to order and it is through companies like MAN TopUsed that this order has been brought about. And it is because of this that Mike Elsbury and his other directors are now quite happy to be in the structured used truck business via the MAN TopUsed franchise.
As Geoff du Plessis, managing director of MAN Truck & Bus South Africa, who headed up MAN TopUsed world-wide from 2010 to March 2013, stated at the opening: “You cannot be in the new truck game without used trucks. Trucks have a first, second and third lifetime and the average age of fleets in South Africa is high because of the support they receive. If you don‘t get used trucks, you can get constipated in this game so you need both businesses working well,“ he said.
All that said, we’re in a new era when it comes to used trucks in South Africa. As Emir Solapgir, head of MAN TopUsed SA, says: “As an extension of the MAN brand, MAN TopUsed has well-defined quality management guidelines to ensure customers purchase with confidence. There is 100 percent transparency on the status of every TopUsed truck or bus, with every vehicle on offer having undergone thorough checks to ascertain overall condition and to ensure the mileage is genuine.“
There you are Mike Elsbury. Now you know what you are getting.
To further differentiate itself from competitor used truck and bus dealers, Solapgi says MAN TopUsed sales personnel are skilled to offer fleet consulting services to customers, including optimum vehicle selection and the sourcing of trailers, especially to start-up operations which form the bulk of TopUsed’s market base. Financing facilities via MAN Financial Services is another key market differentiator for TopUsed dealers.
Integral to improving the performance of MAN TopUsed dealerships is the positioning of the brand in the used commercial vehicle market, which is dominated by private (non-OEM) dealerships. The solid track record Port Elizabeth Truck & Bus has established over the years and its high-visibility location alongside the N2 will serve well in establishing the TopUsed brand in the region.
“MAN has always recognised the importance of a proprietary used-vehicle division as a value-driver in the sale of its new trucks and buses. Having an MAN TopUsed dealership in Port Elizabeth linked to one of our most successful private-capital dealer partners will significantly enhance our market offering in the Eastern Cape region,“ says Du Plessis.
Vehicles forming part of AAD’s TopUsed dealership inventory will be processed and serviced at the Port Elizabeth Truck & Bus facility, constructed to meet stringent MAN international quality standards that extend across office and workshop areas. The 880 square-meter workshop has ten service bays and a wash bay, equipped with state of the art equipment, including proprietary MAN diagnostic tools, MAN-specified inspection pits and a brake roller tester facility.
Let’s leave the last words to Geoff du Plessis: “The unpredictable nature of commercial transport in southern Africa has made cost-predictability an increasingly important buying criterion for transport operators. Having a buy-back agreement signed with MAN and supported by TopUsed at the point of sale gives the customer the assurance of vehicle replacement capital, while suppliers like Port Elizabeth Truck & Bus gain a distinct competitive edge,“ he says.
It’s all there. No, hold on. There’s one more thing needed to complete the picture. Boxes of doughnuts – with icing – and sprinkles – and chocolate. Add that and this sector will be really well structured.