Isuzu Truck South Africa has, since its inception in 2006, been the headlight in the local truck industry, having forged a niche, despite underlying odds that have seen the demise of many manufacturers.
The company, with chief operating officer Craig Uren at the helm, has embraced all the uncertainty prevailing in the market and managed all the variables in order to remain competitive, whilst not losing sight of the customer-centred approach to providing solutions that increase productivity and profitability.
“The industry has been through declines in 2001 and 2009 and the strategies we applied then are no different to what we require today to keep our business on track and even to grow. Success comes with being able to analyse the problems and institute growth and development strategies without pressing the proverbial panic button,” said Uren.
“The perspective of the rest of the world is that the demand for trucks has not been severely impacted as they have faced similar pitfalls such as fuel prices, political upheavals and immigration crises. The drought and our internal politics with load shedding, bad administration and labour unrest make our situation unique compared to the rest of the world. We have had the same problems for years now but our businessmen continuously find a new operational level and a paradigm that is always positive about the economy,” added Uren.
The year 2015 can be considered as the best ever in the short history of Isuzu Truck South Africa, for not only was it the most challenging but also the most rewarding as the results anticipated for the ten-year plan were achieved one year earlier than expected. The 4 550 units sold in 2015 and corresponding 14.9% overall market share ensured that Isuzu Trucks ended as the number one supplier for the third year in a row. In all, the full spectrum of the product range contributed to the overall results, each having increased their market share, the N-Series from 23% to 27% and the F-Series from 29% to 33%.
“We have now positioned the brand where we want it to be and have strategies in place to maintain that level as we are still in a growth stage of that strategy. The results we achieved in 2015 are definitely not the end point but merely part of the journey. I cannot foresee any major hurdles to hinder our progress, except perhaps some major global or local events. The market will, however, dictate where the level will be, if any,” said Uren.
The acquisition of Kanu and ACT in the Eastern Cape was a bold move for ITSA and the results in the four months since the acquisition endorsed the economic value of the move, which enabled the company to meet and exceed its targets for the year. The production at Kanu/ACT is not totally devoted to Isuzu Truck as it also supplies the general market where necessary.
“Kanu/ACT is doing well and so far is filled to capacity. This acquisition has enabled us to get the solution to the market in the most effective manner possible. As we grow in volume, Kanu/ACT grows with us. This has meant great savings for the dealer, who receives a complete vehicle from the factory and eliminates the need to move the vehicle around for the fitting of the various accessories, thereby eliminating unnecessary expenses and shortening the turnaround time once the sale has been concluded. As far as the specialised market is concerned, Isuzu Trucks continues to maintain a high level of activity in the tipper business and dominates in the compactor business as well,” explained Uren.
“For Isuzu, Africa is a huge market opportunity. Around the world Isuzu does well, but Africa needs a lot more work to entrench the product. We have established a good customer base in neighbouring territories and in 2015 we exported more vehicles there than we had done in the last five years. Generally, Isuzu Trucks footprint in Africa is expanding, especially at the assembly facilities in Egypt, Kenya and South Africa. Isuzu Motors Limited Japan sold more than 20 000 new trucks into Africa last year and it is anticipated that this number will grow considerably in the next five years,” said Uren.
The increase in market share and the expansion of the variants in the Isuzu Trucks range have brought a new dimension to the support structure for the product. The parts and service backup has been simplified with the introduction of common components that fit the range of vehicles. There are only four engine derivatives and four transmission models used in the entire range. Also, common components have been incorporated in the cab design, simplifying the replacement of body parts.
“Looking ahead, we have not changed the game plan but require mastering the plan to build on the base that has been set to support the client, from body building, parts and service, and warranties. Our results are there but we require extending the journey further. Extending the journey for our customers means also extending the economic life of their vehicles. For this purpose we have a component replacement exchange programme in place called “ISUZU DRIVETRAIN” for dealers to utilise. The product range will not undergo any major changes, except for some minor cosmetic adjustments, so the emphasis will be on extending the value of the brand ‘For the Long Run’,” concluded Craig Uren.
In 2015, Isuzu Trucks achieved another milestone in the next phase of their Southern Africa strategy when they moved from a commercial OEM to an entrepreneurial-type business entity on acquiring a 100% stake in two Port Elizabeth-based entities, Kanu Commercial Body Construction (Pty) Ltd and Automotive Chassis Technologies (ACT). These acquisitions will enable ITSA to initiate and build products according to client specification, enabling them to have a more integrated relationship with current and future customers in the life cycle of their trucks.
“The acquisition complements our growth strategy as we believe that Kanu and ACT will definitely enhance our business structure. The move to acquire these entities will centralise the process of buying our trucks, where everything will be processed from one central point of contact,” said Craig Uren, chief operating officer of Isuzu Truck South Africa.
“The next few years will be even better for us as the platform we have created with the new strategies in the pipeline, which is one of consolidation and enhancement. We can now focus on people skills development and concentrate on attaining leadership in aftermarket support factors for Southern Africa. Isuzu Trucks will also expand its footprint in the sub-Saharan African market,” concluded Uren.
FleetWatch Editor Patrick O’Leary attended the Isuzu briefing re the brand’s 2015 performance – read his exclusive comment on the briefing in the up-coming FleetWatch Quarterly print edition and e-mag – both due out end February 2016. Visit www.fleetwatch.co.za