TruckStore, one of Mercedes-Benz commercial vehicles “Value Chain’ offerings, has established itself as the fourth-largest used commercial vehicle sales outlet in the Daimler world. And it has achieved this status in a mere ten months after opening for business on a corner stand next to the Sandown Motors Commercial Vehicles Centurion business campus.
Oliver Marte, general manager of TruckStore Centurion, says that apart from local customers, many sales have already been concluded with customers from Kenya, Mozambique, Namibia, Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland, Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
“Many customers from Durban and Cape Town fly in for the day, so we have a shuttle service to OR Tambo and the Gautrain but we are also delighted at how quickly word has got around the continent about our facility serving Africa,’ says Marte.
Historically, Africa has been the dumping ground for excess or cheap retired vehicles from Europe and America. The advantage of purchasing vehicles from TruckStore, Marte explains, is that the products are purpose-built for African markets.
Operating conditions and legislation in Europe and America differ from those in Africa so similar model vehicles are designed and reinforced for much more rugged conditions on the continent. “They subsequently last longer and have lower operating costs than those that come directly out of European and American markets,’ he says.
TruckStore welcomes trucks of all shapes and sizes through its doors. Its synergy with the Mercedes-Benz South Africa commercial vehicles dealer network gives it a business acumen that is sought after, be it as a service to fellow countrymen or those on the continent.
Marte adds that the TruckStore warranty has provided additional confidence to customers who might be purchasing a “second chance’ vehicle for the first time.
Checking the VIN, engine and registration details as well as a detailed technical inspection forms part of the process of examining the vehicle against benchmark TruckStore standards.
“Our dedicated team really pulls out all the stops when a vehicle comes to us,’ says workshop manager Eric Kreder. “Often it is at best, ‘˜mature’, and when work on it is complete, we strive to have it once again working fully to its design capabilities.’
Undoubtedly, it is the one-stop shop, attention to detail and standards employed in the refurbishment process that gives customers peace of mind.
“Vehicles are put through an extensive refurbishment programme, accordingly to their gold, silver or bronze classification, thus ensuring that when customers take receipt of a truck, they get value for money according to the TruckStore price-performance ratio,’ says Marte.
Those in the gold category come with a comprehensive TruckStore warranty as standard, while the trucks in the silver bracket (usually vehicles with a mileage of 500 000 km to 600 000 km) are cheaper and a warranty is optional , as with the bronze category.
Marte adds. “What began as a strategic concept with financial muscle from Mercedes-Benz and a desire to bring the successful European business model to Africa, has started to yield dividends.’
But it has not all been plain sailing. In fact, Marte concedes he may have underestimated the size of the challenge facing him and his colleagues. Within weeks after the opening in September last year, transport strikes and an apparent reluctance by foreign investors to risk money in South Africa threatened to put the brakes on TruckStore’s prospects.
However, the upbeat Marte is not one to succumb to any short-term gloom. While relying on the proven business model, he was convinced that any negative mood due to political-economic factors at the time would be reversed through an aggressive planning strategy, as well as the belief that South Africa has great potential. A subsequent realignment has seen things progressing well.
“There is a long way to go before the industry will again experience business like it did prior to the lows of the global financial crisis in 2008. However, I see the current positive trend continuing, although we do need a level of confidence where investments come in to play a part in the development of the country.’