DAF Trucks has a new head and he’s a real ‘boykie’ who knows both the sales and operations side of the truck coin. His name is Marius Barnard and here’s his official title – Managing Director for Babcock’s Transport Solutions business, under which the DAF Trucks brand in southern Africa falls. That’s too long so we’ll just call him head of DAF Trucks writes Patrick O’Leary.
Putting Barnard at the helm to drive DAF forward is a good move for although the brand has been around for some time, it has not really reached the heights it is capable of reaching. The official press release announcing the appointment stated that “Marius aims to build on the success that Babcock has achieved in establishing the DAF Trucks brand in southern Africa over the last decade.”
DAF was originally brought into South Africa in 2003 under the then Tyco Group with the franchise later being transferred to Babcock in 2010. To be honest, FleetWatch found this a little strange at the time as Babcock was focused on the construction equipment sector with a lot of Volvo yellow goods stuff in its stable. You know, those grader type things. The trucking sector was a stranger to it.
They did, however, have some good trucking guys in the stable but somehow, that didn’t seem enough. I’m not too sure what measure of success has been used for the statement of “building on the success” but in terms of sales, DAF, which operates in the extra heavy vehicle truck segment of over 16 500 GVM, has never reached the numbers it has the potential to reach.
While makes like Scania and Volvo have regularly reached great heights in terms of monthly numbers in the extra heavy segment (we can’t tell you exact figures for models coming out of the Mercedes-Benz stable as the company only reports aggregated sales figures across its range), we watched DAF vacillate last year between a monthly low of seven DAF XF models sold in June 2019 to a high of 40 in October 2019. It ended 2019 with a mere 3 DAF XF models sold in December. Mmmmmm. There were some big orders that came through over the years such as to Ngululu Bulk Carriers and Reinhardt Transport but generally, the monthly numbers were low.
This has been a mystery as to why. There is nothing wrong with DAF trucks and they fall into the generally widely accepted statement that there are no bad trucks coming into South Africa from Europe. In fact, in Europe, DAF is a huge name and has won Europe’s Truck of the Year in the past. The cab of the XF model is also stunning in terms of driver comfort. Something has been missing here in South Africa and it will be up to Barnard to find and fill that missing spot.
What gives us a good feeling that Barnard will be able to do this is his past years of experience in both selling and using trucks having spent time on both sides of the fence. That’s has to count for a lot. In addition , a big plus in his favour is that he regards his mentor as having been the late great Kobus van Zyl, an industry giant who, as former head of Mercedes-Benz Trucks, took this brand to great heights under his reign.
Let’s look at the selling side of the truck coin. Barnard began his career in the commercial vehicle industry in 1994 at the Barloworld group, moving from a sales executive role to holding various senior management positions. In 2007, he was appointed Dealer Principal and general manager of Garden City Commercials in Pietermaritzburg, a major truck and vans franchised dealer group within Barloworld.
During his time there, the dealership won five consecutive Dealer of the Year awards, over 20 category awards and a coveted Chairman’s Award. That’s a heck of a string of accolades but in his characteristic humble way, he points to the team rather than any individual as being the true heroes.
In his view, individual egos have no place in his grounded approach to business which emphasises teamwork and peer-to-peer collaboration. “It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you’re not concerned about who gets the credit,” he says.
Barnard adds that personal interactions are his strength and this was an influential factor in his decision to start the next chapter of his career at Babcock. “I was drawn to Babcock’s personal approach to their customers and their people-orientated values, as well as the Babcock International Group’s global footprint and premium brands.”
On the operations side of the truck coin, he recently held the position of Fleet Executive for Barloworld Transport where he was responsible for the total cost of ownership of Barloworld Transport’s fleet of vehicles. This included commercialisation, procurement and disposal, group workshops, group tyres, Road Transport Management (RTMS) and Performance-Based Standards (PBS) accreditation, technical, compliance and group fuel. In other words, he had a lot to do with the running of a lot of lorries.
Looking at both sides of the truck coin, Barnard knows the joy of delivering a new truck order to a new client as well as the pain of a breakdown on the side of the road on an urgent and critical delivery.
This knowledge is important for, as my good friend Dave Scott, FleetWatch technical correspondent, says: “The delivery of a new truck is the wedding and that is always a big party. After that, you have to attend to the marriage relationship and that is where you have to focus on the lifetime costs that follow the wedding. Einaaa!”
We could carry on with the analogy and say that it is during the marriage that you have to lie under the truck in the middle of the night and service it when it breaks down – and ensure you have the parts to do so; but we won’t. I know the minds of some of you guys out there.
Looking ahead, Marius says he intends to grow Babcock’s Transport Solutions business organically through honesty and accuracy and by building on the business’s already established support network.
“In a service business such as Babcock, it’s the people who really make a difference in how the company is perceived. Satisfied customers are strong market tools and word-of-mouth goes far in helping you sell a product,” he says.
Other values that Marius says have held him in good stead over the years, and which he plans to instil in his new position, include:
- Keeping existing customers loyal by providing consistent service and clear, open lines of communication.
- Always working to the best of one’s ability.
- Drawing in new business through a customer-centric approach.
- Attracting new customers by being the brand’s biggest fan.
What also helps in the equation is just being a hell-of-a-nice guy. And Marius Barnard is such a guy. From all at FleetWatch, we wish you well and all the best of success on your new journey.