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The South African market for trucks, buses and vans with Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM) ratings of more than 3 500kg performed well during the first half of 2011, despite widespread concerns that product availability particularly from the Japanese manufacturers, would serve to constrain sales volumes in the wake of the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan early in March,.
It was notable that total reported sales outperformed the equivalent first half-year result for 2010, by 23,3%, and this has provided a favourable environment for vehicle manufacturers to introduce new and updated models into the market. This means potentially there will be a bullish approach from the country’s truck manufacturers and distributors when they display their latest models at the Johannesburg International Motor Show at Expo Centre, Nasrec, on October 6-16.
Substantial product enhancement activities have already been introduced by the market-leading Daimler Trucks family, with upgrades to the Mercedes-Benz Actros, Axor and Atego ranges, which span the heavy commercial vehicle (8,5-16,5 ton GVM) and extra-heavy commercial vehicle (over 16,5 ton GVM) segments.
The changes were of both a cosmetic and technical nature, while in the Fuso product line-up, sourced from Daimler’s Japanese affiliate, the FK and FM Series, which participate in the Heavy Commercial Vehicle segment, were equipped with new Euro 2 compliant engines.
The recent promotional emphasis placed on the Fuso brand by Mercedes-Benz SA makes it clear that these products are being positioned for more substantial participation in market segments that are presently dominated by other Japanese products from Hino, Isuzu and UD Trucks.
Overall, the Mercedes-Benz Group recorded market share growth during the second quarter of 2011, reflecting market acceptance of these new models.
At the extra-heavy end of the market, Toyota’s truck specialist subsidiary, Hino, introduced revised versions of its flagship 700 Series, which included the first local applications of automated mechanical transmissions in this range. This is action clearly intended to improve this marque’s competitiveness in the long-distance line haul sector.
Volvo Trucks’ recent promotional focus has rested upon its newly-introduced FMX construction model line-up, while the successful revival of the Renault brand under Volvo’s patronage has been a recent feature of the extra-heavy commercial vehicle segment.
After a difficult history when it was represented by a number of different local partners, Renault now seems to have finally established a firm distribution and support base in concert with its global partner, and is building a platform for future growth. “Hands-on” operator experiences at a number of recent construction industry field days have added momentum to Renault’s presence in the local market.
With its comprehensive programme of product range renewal now complete, Isuzu Trucks South Africa was rewarded with a substantial improvement in market share during the second quarter of 2011. During this period the marque also recorded its first sales of dedicated bus models since the mid-1980’s.
North American manufacturer Navistar International has replaced its erstwhile 7600 conventional (bonneted) model with the new Workstar, and has said that it will be exhibiting its forward control (cab over) Global Eagle at the Johannesburg International Motor Show. This latter model should provide a pointer to future model direction for Navistar, together with its global NC² partner Caterpillar, in the long-haul market, where International’s 9800 Series, and its predecessors, have enjoyed a long and distinguished history.
Following recent revisions to its local distribution arrangements, DAF’s return to the local market in conjunction with the Babcock organization has now started to gather sales momentum.
The Brazilian-built Volkswagen Constellation range, now marketed by MAN in South Africa, has also undergone some payload-boosting technical revisions, which should enhance its prospects for gaining a more meaningful foothold in both the heavy commercial vehicle and extra-heavy commercial vehicle categories.
Parent company MAN continues to capitalize on the recent launch of its TGS-WW range of extra-heavy product, which has now assumed the dominant position in the manufacturer’s local sales profile.
Since the beginning of the year, Associated Motor Holdings has reported sales of vehicles into the medium commercial vehicle (3,5 – 8,5 ton GVM) segment. Although not detailed by make or model, it can be deduced that these consist of the Hyundai HD series, and, if the market is adjusted to include these volumes, it was noted that these models captured around 3,5% of the available segment sales during the second quarter.
Finally, several Chinese manufacturers active in South Africa now seem to have developed more interest in heavy commercial vehicle market participation, with FAW having introduced its 16.240FL and 9.130 models, while some product offerings from Dongfeng and Foton Aumark are also aimed squarely at the distribution sector.
Dong Feng has also introduced a dedicated 6×4 rigid unit aimed at the forestry sector, while compatriot FAW has announced that it will be bringing its J6 flagship truck-tractor to South Africa.
Unfortunately, none of these Far Eastern brands currently report sales to the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of South Africa (NAAMSA), so their level of success in penetrating the market cannot be accurately determined.