A new senior management team at MAN Truck & Bus is determined to recover lost ground in the European truck market, especially in the UK.
This is the gist of the message delivered this month to some of the UK’s biggest truck fleet operators by Joachim Drees and Thomas Hemmerich.
Drees has been chief executive at Munich-based MAN Truck & Bus AG, part of the Volkswagen Truck & Bus group, for the past three years. Hemmerich was appointed managing director of Swindon, Wiltshire-based MAN Truck & Bus UK Ltd just over one year ago.
Speaking at a London press conference this month, both outlined how they intend to reverse a recent decline in MAN truck sales, blamed largely in the UK on what Hemmerich refers to euphemistically as “legacy issues”.
The main culprit surely is a well-documented spate of failures of MAN’s Euro-V 12.4-litre D26 in-line six-cylinder engine starting in 2014 and 2015. This alone has resulted in many truck operators abandoning the marque.
Tracking MAN’s decline
The trend is reflected clearly in the latest full-year truck registration figures for the UK, which show that MAN registrations above 6.0 tonnes GVW plunged by more than 17% in 2017 compared to 2016, in a market that shrank by only 2.6%.
MAN’s share of the UK truck market fell below that of Iveco last year for the first time since 2006. MAN’s share of the 6.0-tonnes-plus UK truck market last year was 7.4% compared with 8.8% in 2016.
Hemmerich has a long track record in running more successful MAN truck and bus sales and marketing operations, in Africa, Germany and latterly Austria (where MAN is the top-selling truck manufacturer by a country mile) and is confident of sales growth this year in the UK.
The three top priorities in his recovery plan are, he says: “Getting operator confidence back, with MAN back on truck buyer shopping lists; our internal reorganisation (Dave Cussans has already been persuaded by Hemmerich to return to MAN from Scania (Great Britain), where he had been a regional executive director, to become UK truck sales director); and getting as many people as possible behind the wheel of MAN trucks.”
Part of the huge Millbrook proving ground in Bedfordshire has been hired by MAN Truck & Bus UK for five full days next month to allow prospective buyers to try out the entire MAN truck range, including recently introduced TGE vans and chassis-cab range (rebadged Volkswagen Crafters) at 3.5 tonnes GVW.
“We’ll invite a significant number of customers and our own employees to experience the MAN range,” says Hemmerich. “I can tell you endless stories about the amazing products we sell. But you need to feel and experience those products.”
He is especially keen to encourage tipper operators to get first-hand experience of MAN’s latest 8×4 rigid trucks.
Much to the annoyance of many senior truck industry figures, including Hemmerich, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) no longer publishes detailed, timely registration statistics on various truck market sectors, but our sources point to falling sales overall of four-axle rigid trucks last year, with MAN suffering a sharper sales fall than most.
Hemmerich acknowledges this. “For whatever reason, MAN has lost a significant share of the eight-wheeler business,” he admits.
“Based on my experience in other countries, I personally think that our product is a benchmark in this sector. I don’t want to sound arrogant, but I think we undersell ourselves, especially in off-road applications.”
On the continuing controversy over the SMMT’s decision to stop publishing detailed truck registration statistics (in the wake of the European Commission fine on truck-makers for alleged price-fixing), Hemmerich does not mince his words.
“I think it’s unheard of,” he says. “Here we are in a first-world country and yet we don’t have access to reasonable figures. How does anyone steer their business without proper statistical data?
“I’ve never experienced this in my life before. Even in Africa, I had more detailed figures than I have here in the UK.”
Hemmerich’s boss, MAN Truck & Bus AG chief executive Joachim Drees, echoes demands for timely, detailed, reliable data on which to base decisions. He has just approved a budget of £20 million for UK truck dealer network modernisation over the next five years.
“The UK is one of the most mature commercial vehicle markets in the world,” he says. “UK truck, van, bus and coach operators understand the need to offer flexible transport solutions for their customers and in doing so they are quick to react to the changing needs of both business and legislation.”
Drees’s appointment three years ago to the top job at MAN Truck & Bus was part of the extensive VW Truck & Bus management reorganisation that followed Martin Lundstedt’s departure from MAN sister company Scania where he was chief executive, to join arch-rival Volvo Group.
Now the boot is on the other foot as a top Volvo Group executive, Göran Nyberg, has been poached by Drees to become his new sales and marketing supremo. Nyberg, who headed the Volvo truck and bus sales and marketing operation in the UK about ten years ago, was Volvo Trucks North America president until he quit last month.
Nyberg, 57, starts his new job as MAN Truck & Bus executive board member responsible for sales and marketing in September. He succeeds Heinz-Jürgen Löw who moved to Volkswagen’s light commercial vehicles division six months ago.
“Göran Nyberg’s knowledge of the industry spans a number of years,” says Drees. “Along with his international experience and clear customer focus, this makes him a real asset to our management team.
“Important change has been set in motion at MAN Truck & Bus. We are branching out from being purely a commercial vehicles manufacturer to become a provider of intelligent and sustainable transport solutions for our customers. Göran Nyberg will help to shape this change and drive it further forward.”