It’s not very often that the Australian trucking media get a chance to have a one-on-one interview with the global CEO of one of the leading truck manufacturers, but recently Tim Giles sat down with the man from MAN, Alexander Vlaskamp.
On a recent trip to Australia, MAN CEO, Alexander Vlaskamp, took time out to sit down and speak to PowerTorque about the MAN and Traton Group view of the trucking world. He was spending some time here meeting up with the team from Penske ANZ, who distribute the MAN brand here.
He also came to have a look at the Rhieinmetall facility in Redbank on the outskirts of Brisbane, where the large MAN-based military vehicles used by the Australian defence Forces are assembled.
After a career in several countries around Europe and Brazil with Scania, Alexander moved across to, fellow Traton Group brand, MAN, a couple of years ago. Although a relatively small player in the Australian truck market, in Europe MAN is one of the big six truck brands, all of which control between 15 and 16 percent of the total medium and heavy duty truck market.
“We always want to understand our customers and be be very close to where the marketplace is, and understand what the demands are short term but also of course, mid and long term,” says Alexander. “Our team here, Thomas Hemmerich covering Asia, together with Penske, we have been reviewing the last six months.
“We can lift our market position and we are making sure that we bring more of our products to Australia. It really kicked off with the launch last year. It was really successful and now we’re delivering the first vehicles and getting a good customer reception.”
The strength, as Alexander sees it, of the MAN product is concentrated in the heavy duty segment. This is the sector where the brand has made headway in the past, interstate and intrastate, as well as urban distribution.
He also points out the MAN product on the medium duty side. However, as a European truck manufacturer the brand has little experience slugging it out with the Japanese truck makers which dominate our medium duty segment.
“We have fantastic vehicles for distribution, and also for garbage collection, etc,” says Alexander. “That is where I think where we have the right product line. I would say it’s nice to compete with the Japanese. I think, for the drivers, it’s a real good feeling to be in a TGM or TGL and enjoy the comfort of a European cab. Basically, to have the space around you and be able to bring your food and other things for the day and not have to worry where to place it in the cab.
“When I spoke to some customers who said that getting drivers is not easy. In the distribution segment, there is also a good argument that you can get and retain drivers, if they have a comfortable working environment. I think that’s the name of the game in the coming years, to make sure that the product fits, that service fits, but it’s also about the comfort of those operating the trucks, the drivers.
“I think that we are hitting that well with our TG3. That’s where you see our TG3 design also goes into the medium duty trucks, where we don’t compromise, unlike other brands that in medium duty offer a ‘plain’ dashboard.”