New era for Daimler Trucks & Buses Southern Africa

By Time of article published Nov 16, 2021

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By: John Makoni

Pretoria - Daimler Trucks & Buses Southern Africa (DTBSA) has announced a raft of significant new developments, starting with a newly acquired independence status. Beginning December 1 2021, DTBSA will be a 100% wholly owned subsidiary of Daimler Truck AG, the organisation said at a media briefing in Pretoria.

It also announced its e-mobility and electrification agenda. Its projected growth in the face of so far impressive sales numbers this year, its current and future market share objectives and its drive to retain skills and create employment as well as the problems and suggested solutions to the supply chain hiccups that have bedeviled mostly by manufacturing organisations following Covid-19.

DTBSA President and CEO Michael Dietz aligned the change in status with the company’s vision of the future and said the restructuring followed the streamlining of Daimler AG, of which DTBSA’s parent company Daimler Truck AG was one. Daimler Truck is ready for the official stock market listing on 10 December 2021.

Michael Dietz also said for the first time DTBSA will have its own new, captive and dedicated finance division known as Daimler Truck Financial Services (DTFS). He added that this would fuel entrepreneurial freedom for both sides of the business.

“We have done some ground-breaking changes previously, like the establishment of DTBSA as a legal entity in 2019 and more recently the founding of our very own captive financial mobility services, Daimler Trucks Financial Services,” said Michael Dietz, noting that this enabled the organisation to be more competitive and to accelerate key technological developments and enhance capability to meet changing and emerging customer requirements, which were increasingly becoming more diversified. He hailed the restructuring as a massive turning point for DTBSA and a huge investment for the Southern African market.

He also emphasised the importance of DTBSA having a strong partner network across Southern Africa, a sentiment shared by incoming DTFS CFO Hanif Ahmed, who noted that one in every two trucks and buses on South Africa’s roads was financed by DTBSA. As such, retaining customer loyalty and meeting their special needs was key to growth strategy and strengthening the foothold within the market of operation.

Most importantly is the skilled staff complement at four DTBSA sites, soon to be consolidated into three sites with the move of the Sales and Marketing campus currently in Centurion to a new facility. This comprised 180 sales and marketing staff, 250 production personnel, 240 own retail employees and a further 50 in DTFS. The DTBSA production plant in East London will however continue operating from the same site with clear and seamless integration of Mercedes-Benz and FUSO brands and enjoying the same level access to the harbour, depots/storage centres, testing ground and Training Academy.

Furthermore, Michael Dietz cited the wisdom of high staff retention levels and remarked that his organisation had gone all out to retain staff at the height of the pandemic as a long-term strategy. Once business picked up at full steam again, the company would reap the benefits of retaining staff with the kind of specialist staff that made them harder to replace, he added.

“We look forward to growing in this business in South Africa and neighbouring countries,” said DTFS Managing Director, Mike Honiball. In all, Daimler Truck AG was one of the largest commercial vehicle manufacturers in the world, rolling off the production line some 500 000 units globally and Daimler Truck AG in total boasting a staff complement of 82 320 employees globally.

DTBSA Executive Director and CFO Peter Kendzorra explained that the organisation currently enjoyed a market share of 19%, with a total of 4 000 sales units and projected revenues for 2021 to the tune of R8 billion, and growth expected to hit pre-pandemic levels by 2023 to about 5 000 units. The company also looking to recruit 50 new hires to add to the 800 or so available personnel, he added. “These are exciting times for all of us, we look forward to grow from strength to strength”, incoming DTFS CFO Hanif Ahmed said.

It was also significant that the unbundling is accompanied by an investment injection to the tune of R1-billion to strengthen capacity and resourcing, in areas including value-added services, comprising such aspects of the business as TruckStore, Fleetboard, Mercedes-Benz Uptime, Service 24h, TruckParts and FUSO Value Parts (FVP).

Of the many changes unveiled during the event however, the organisation’s green drive that Michael Dietz spelt out was one of the most exciting.

He said they were ramping up lots of investments in order to achieve e-carbonisation and that the first e-portfolio product, the e-Canter truck, was due in South Africa at any time from now. “We’re significantly expanding our global e-portfolio but will also offer a balanced portfolio where conventional powertrain remains a key product,” he said. Exploration was continuing on the utilisation of hydrogen in order to achieve e-carbonisation as soon as possible, Michael Dietz added.

He also stated that the organisation would continue to offer a 100% fully-fledged customised value chain, across construction, long haul, distribution, recycling and waste collection sectors, in response to customers’ requests. It was also evident that DTBSA was ahead of the South African government and other governments in the region with its e-carbonisation agenda as legislation had not yet been comprehensively formulated in this regard.

Asked whether rolling power blackouts would jeopardise e-carbonisation plans and the induction of the e-Canter truck, DTBSA Sales and Marketing Vice President Maretha Gerber said a dedicated logistics division would see to infrastructure challenges. She also expressed hope semi-conductor and related supply chain concerns would be resolved speedily to offset shortages in 2022 but said 2021 had been relatively smooth.

Said DTBSA Vice President: Customer Service, Parts and Downstream Ziyad Gaba: “Our customers are sophisticated, this is what they want”. He was responding to a question whether the market was ready for such innovations and commenting on the total value chain accruing from purchasing a product from DTBSA. Added Maretha: “It’s about building a relationship with the customer and not just pushing metal.”

“The future is bright and exhilarating, so stay tuned,” announced an enthusiastic DTBSA Vice President: Manufacturing, Gladstone Mtyoko via video link from East London. Gladstone also said there would be a full separation of the passenger car and commercial vehicle components, although both entities would continue to operate from the same production plant. “It is indeed a new dawn and we’re excited to usher in a new dawn for all who keep Africa moving.”

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