Domestic and export sales of trucks and buses in SA are under pressure in tight trading conditions, but several local manufacturers are still optimistic about the future as they announced new models and plans to increase sales volumes at last month’s Futuroad truck and bus expo in Johannesburg.
Futuroad, the successor to the Johannesburg International Truck and Bus Show, was co-located for the second time with Automechanika Johannesburg at Nasrec Expo Centre from September 18 to 22.
UD Trucks, Daewoo Trucks, Tata Motors, Powerstar and Volvo all staged launch events at the show. The first four companies announced new and additional models, while Volvo, which is the top seller in the SA extra-heavy truck market, announced upgrades to be introduced in the first quarter of 2020.
Jacques Michel, global marketing head of UD Trucks, introduced the all-new Quon extra-heavy range, which is the fourth new UD model to be launched in SA in the past five years, after the introduction of the Croner, Quester and Kuzer. SA is the third-biggest market in the world for the Japanese truck brand.
The new Quon line-up includes four 6×4 rigid models, and four 6×4 truck-tractor options — all with a GVM of 26,000kg. It is especially suited to the distribution, petrochemical and fast-moving consumer goods market segments.
The range has fuel-efficient Euro 5 engines as standard, and the 11l unit develops 343kW, which is matched to the new ESCOT-VI electronically controlled automatic transmission.
Active and passive safety equipment includes disc brakes, collision-mitigating braking, a lane departure warning system, driver alert support, adaptive cruise control, a retarder, electronic braking system and stability control.
Other advanced features in the new Quon are LED lights, extensive rust prevention measures and sealed hob bearings as well as UD Telematics.
Daewoo, the Korean truck manufacturer that is wholly owned by Tata of India, launched a new extra-heavy truck, the Maximus KL3TX, at Futuroad. Daewoo has been in SA for 15 years but will now concentrate only on the extra-heavy segment of the market so there is no conflict between Daewoo and Tata models. The vehicle park of Daewoo trucks in SA is estimated at 6,000 units.
The Maximus uses the tried and trusted combination of a 358kW Cummins engine, which produces 2,509Nm of torque with either an Eaton or ZF automated manual transmission, and an Eaton rear axle.
Daewoo sales in SA are expected to reach 200 in 2019, with a target of 500-600 units a year in future. These trucks are sold in 11 other African countries and are locally assembled in SA and Kenya.
Len Brand, CEO of Tata Africa, who has been involved with the turnaround of Tata in Southern Africa for the past three years, says his team is now focusing on aftersales backup through its 91 service and spare parts outlets in SA and a further 60 in the rest of Africa. He adds that the company is well advanced in setting up its own financial arm to assist customers buying Tata and Daewoo products. A pilot operation in Tanzania is already proving successful.
Tata Trucks has increased its truck range in SA by filling some gaps in its product line-up as it prepares to increase its growing market share in Sub-Saharan Africa, in line with its growing penetration in the new truck and bus markets on the African continent.
The new models are three additions to the base Prima and Ultra platforms, with the Prima covering the 25-60 ton gross combination mass (GCM) segment, though the top GCM mass in SA is limited to 40 tons, and the Ultra models range carry loads of 8-14 tons.
Tata’s long-term ambition is to be one of the top three truck and bus manufacturers in the world, but in the meantime it is in the top five in Africa and is dominant in many South Asian countries near India, where it holds more than 50% market share.
The Tata bus and truck park in Africa is estimated at 100,000 units. Sales in SA are expected to move up from the 1,050 units sold in 2018 to about 1,200 units this year. Tata expects to sell between 9,000 and 9,500 trucks and buses in Africa in 2019.
Production constraints at its Rosslyn assembly plant are affecting sales but investments into increasing plant capacity will sort this out in the near future. Tata has an aspirational forecast of boosting sales volumes in Southern Africa by 40%-45% in the next few years.
Besides Rosslyn, Tata has five other assembly plants in Africa. These facilities are located in Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal (mainly buses), Ethiopia and Tunisia.
The big news from Volvo is that even more fuel-efficient Euro 3 engines will be introduced for the FH, FM and FMX ranges with fuel consumption savings of as much as 3% on long-haul operations due to the fitment of new engine hardware — including a different turbocharger — and changes to the software.
Malcom Gush, director of Volvo new truck sales, says Volvo decreased fuel consumption on comparable size engines by more than 50% between 1976 and 2019, with engine power increasing considerably over this 43-year timespan.
Volvo will also be offering a patented disengaging rear axle mechanism on its 6×4 trucks, which can result in a 3% fuel saving when the truck is running lightly laden. Another useful addition is a crawler gear in the transmission for manoeuvring in muddy conditions.
However, Gush stresses that nothing saves fuel like a good driver, with savings of as much as 15% being attainable by a well-trained driver.
Volvo will also be piloting a Euro 6 engine using liquefied natural gas (LNG) in SA next year, which cuts CO2 emissions by 20%. Volvo has already sold more than 3,000 trucks and buses fitted with LNG engines.
Powerstar is expanding its range and targeting increased growth in the long-haul market as it builds on steady sales growth from double-digit monthly sales figures in 2010 to selling a planned 700 trucks in 2019. More than 5,000 Powerstar trucks have been assembled at its Pietermaritzburg assembly plant since 2006.
Powerstar executives stress the importance of its joint venture with Foton to provide a comprehensive model range, with the much-improved Foton range in the lower-mass categories.