Johannesburg - The establishment of a regional centre by Daimler Trucks and Buses for southern Africa is set to result in further investment in its truck assembly plant in East London and job creation.
Wolfgang Bernhard, the management board head at Daimler responsible for Daimler Trucks and Buses, confirmed yesterday that new truck products would be assembled at its East London truck plant.
“In terms of product, we are on the offensive and will grow our product range as we move forward and have plans to put those vehicles into East London. We don’t know yet what the investment will be but it’s a good business case for us to do that,” he said.
Kobus van Zyl, the executive director for Daimler Trucks and Buses Southern Africa, said that the plant currently had sufficient capacity to handle sales into the region for at least the next two years.
Van Zyl added that the target was to assemble as many of the trucks it sold into the region at the plant but it would not make economic sense for them to assemble some specialised vehicles.
“For the first while we will be able to leverage our existing infrastructure and resources. But production and sales is directly related to people and jobs and as it expands, there will definitely be employment opportunities on the plant side,” he said.
Bernhard stressed they did not expect to import a lot of commercial vehicles as completely built up units.
“That might be the start (of imports) but at the end of they day they will be CKD (completely knock down assembly) in East London,” he said.
Bernhard said the regional centre based in Pretoria would manage nine commercial vehicle markets in southern Africa, which was an important growth region, and be responsible for sales and after sales for Mercedes-Benz trucks and buses, Fuso trucks and buses, Freightliner trucks, Western Star trucks and Mercedes-Benz vans into the region.
It was the third of six regional centres being opened for Daimler’s commercial vehicles business around the world.
The expanded southern African region will now also include Malawi, Zambia, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. Daimler Trucks and Buses Southern Africa was previously responsible for South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland.
Bernhard stressed the importance of providing their customers with seamless quality in terms of service and parts as they moved up to Zambia and other countries in Africa. The sale of used trucks into the southern African region will be a strong focus of the regional centre.
Van Zyl said their TruckStore had in the two years since its launch grown into one of their biggest business units in South Africa and a huge portion of these sales were already going into the region. “We know these markets are dominated by used vehicles and want to exploit that opportunity. We estimate that roughly one new for every 10 used vehicles are sold in these markets.
“If we can achieve the same ratio on our sales, we will be delighted. It’s exciting for us to look at the market as a complete market with both new and used trucks,” he said.
Bernhard said used truck availability was not a problem, because they had trucks coming off lease in South Africa, North America and Europe and knew their service history.