Home Fleetwatch 2014 Comments by Patrick O'Leary Don’t rely on past glory for future success

Don’t rely on past glory for future success


On page 22 of this edition you will find an article headed ‘Rising of the Phoenix’. It is an article which expounds the virtues of G.U.D. Filters while at the same time chastises the company for hiding its light under a bush over the past years. Please read it for it encapsulates some strong lessons for all supplier companies operating in the trucking industry. I would also like to point out that the bouquets thrown G.U.D.’s way are genuine as this is not ‘paid for’ advertorial. It is based on independent observation and past experience of the writer rather than on the size of the cheque handed over the table which is intended to assure the immediate repositioning of a shack into a palace. No cheque ever has – or ever will be – handed over when it comes to FleetWatch editorial.

One of the points emerging from this article is that companies which enjoyed a strong market presence and awareness in the past must never take this for granted and assume it will continue without effort being put in to maintain that presence. Things have changed and for those companies which think they can relax and bask comfortably in their past glory, forget it. And I speak from personal experience having gone through the transition from print to digital media. The success one enjoyed in the past can never be assured for the future. You have to work on it. Elevate this to the supplier side of trucking industry as a whole and here’s the reality. When I attended the Automechanika exhibition held in Johannesburg last year, there were just over 600 exhibiting companies. And guess how many Chinese companies there were? Just on 300 – many of them exhibiting products aimed at the trucking market. None of the companies I spoke to wanted to set up shop in South Africa. They wanted to export their products from China into South Africa at much cheaper prices than our local suppliers can give. How about three 5th wheels for the price of one local Jost 5th wheel. “Same quality,” I was assured by the Chinese gentleman. Yeah sure! I spoke to a visiting transporter at that particular stand who was seriously considering it.
Since the G.U.D. article deals with truck filters, let me highlight one Chinese company at that show which had on display a range of filters decked out in the distinctive red and white colours of FleetGuard – a filter range made by Cummins. Alongside these – on the same stand – were filters in the distinctive yellow Caterpillar colours. I asked the lady why they were copying the colours of existing, competitive brands. She replied: “Aaah no – not FleetGuard. No Cummins. Ours better. Good quality – much cheaper. Wat your name?” Note, she knew FleetGuard and Cummins which means she knew exactly what I was talking about regarding the colours being cloned. When asked what the minimum number of filters were that I could order, she replied: “Aaah, one containa”. When I asked if they could supply me 100 filters, she obviously misunderstood my question for her face lit up. “You want 100 containa. No ploblem. Wat your name.” Let me now move off the show into daily life. As editor of FleetWatch I receive, on average, three emails per week from companies in China looking for ways to enter our market. These are not emails directed at some random circulation list. No, they are all truck orientated products meaning the companies have done some homework. You don’t believe me? Again, since we are dealing with a filter company in G.U.D., here’s one of them. There are many others – from brake shoes to full cabs and engines. I have left it unaltered – including the spelling of the company names like ‘Volve’ and ‘Commins’ instead of Volvo and Cummins. Here goes:

Good day to you! I am Jelly, sales of Wenzhou Yongyu Filter Co. LTD . I am writing to set up cooperation with your company in near future. Kindly allow me to introduce our company briefly. We are specialized in oil filters, fuel filters, air filters, cabin filters, hydraulic filters, aluminium seatings, water bowls and water-level sensors for buses, loaders, graders, wood cutting machines, dump trucks, heavy trucks, light trucks, excavators,
combines, air compressors, forage harvesters, windrovers, tractors and so on. So our filters, aluminium seatings and water bowls are mainly for construction machineries, agricultural machineries, heavy duties, vessels and so on. Our products are
equal to products in Volve, Commins, Caterpillar, Komatsu, Mann, Hengst, Perkins, Racor, Benz, Scania, Renault, Iveco, Donaldson, Hino, DAF, Johndeere, New Holland, Bladwin, Mack, and some other Chinese heavy truck . If this month you got orders about them, kindly pls send me for quotation. I have also enclosed our lastest stock list and e-catalogue. If find items you are interested in, pls also contact me freely. Stock list means
products are blank ready in our stock and can be sent to you in short time. Thanks for checking my letter. Looking forward to your first inquiry earlier. Kind regards, Jelly

This is just one of many I receive. Please do not think I am mocking or decrying all Chinese companies. Far from it. In fact, FAW and Powerstar are well positioned in our market and are adding value to the sectors they are targeting. So too is the Indian company Tata, a company which everyone – including me – wrongly predicted would not last beyond that ill-fated Taxi Recapitalisation tender process which even saw the Russian product, Gaz, involved with a piece of junk steel mounted on wheels. All the above three companies have made significant inroads into sectors which were previously serviced by the ‘traditional’
suppliers in our market. The point I am making is that there are just too many companies out there relying on their past glory to assure their future success in the face of an
onslaught by competitive companies wanting to capture a slice of the local action. In making this observation, please do not think I am being arrogant or aloof. It’s just that I do
have some historical perspective having been observing and reporting on the South African trucking industry for the past 37 years. In fact, FleetWatch celebrates its 21st
anniversary this year. With this perspective, I am seeing too much complacency creep in to replace the dynamism that existed – particularly among our components sector – in the past. Let’s put it this way: Companies were more market-active during the sanctions era when they faced no competition at all than they are now when faced with potential competition from all around the globe. It just doesn’t make sense.

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