Wielton enters UK trailer market

Fast-growing Polish manufacturer launches £26 million Lawrence David takeover

Lawrence David, one of the three biggest trailer-makers in the UK, is under new ownership following a £26 million takeover by Poland-based Wielton Group.

Details of the deal were revealed last month at the huge IAA (Internationale Automobil-Ausstellung) commercial vehicles show in Hannover, Germany by Wielton Group chief executive Mariusz Golec and Lawrence David managing director Andy Dodge.

Laurence Marshall, CEO of Lawrence David, and Mariusz Golec, CEO of Wielton
Laurence Marshall, CEO of Lawrence David, and Mariusz Golec, CEO of Wielton Group

Wielton is Poland’s biggest manufacturer of trailers and truck bodywork and reckoned to be among Europe’s largest following acquisitions over the past three years in France, Italy and Germany.

The group, listed on the Warsaw Stock Exchange, has initially acquired 75% of Lawrence David shares from the Marshall family, with an option to buy the remaining 25% within the next four years.

Lawrence David was founded in 1973 in Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, where it is still based, by Lawrence Marshall. His son, Laurence, has been chief executive for 18 years.

Last year the family-owned firm turned over about £74 million and sold around 2,700 semi-trailers, in addition to about 800 rigid truck bodies. Most of these bodies were for the 3.5-tonnes-GVW Mercedes-Benz Sprinter light commercial vehicles used by supermarket chain Sainsbury’s on its grocery home delivery operation. The total annual UK market for new semi-trailers at present is put at around 23,000.

Lawrence David’s pillarless curtain-sided semi-trailers are well-liked by many UK-based truck fleet operators but the bigger attraction for Wielton is the firm’s expertise in bodywork for much smaller, home-delivery vehicles.

Potential for expanding across Europe

Wielton chief executive Golec seems to see great potential for expanding sales of this product throughout continental Europe. The move also gives Wielton its first foothold in the sizeable UK trailer market.

Three years ago Wielton bought both France-based Fruehauf and an insolvent Italian family-owned trailer-making group, Compagnia Italiana Rimorchi (CIR), including the Merker, Viberti and Cardi trailer brands. German trailer-maker Langendorf was bought last year.

“Thanks to the acquisition of Lawrence David, Wielton Group is entering a stable and receptive market,” says Golec.

“This acquisition is an opportunity to enrich the group’s offer with the company’s unique products. Particularly noteworthy are the products from the last-mile/home-delivery line, which are widely used in the FMCG (fast-moving consumer goods) industry and the rapidly-growing e-commerce sector.

“Other products of interest are the Lawrence David pillarless curtain-sider trailers that allow more efficient loading and faster transport. We expect that in more demanding markets this product may partially replace traditional semi-trailers.

“On the other hand, we see great potential for complementing Lawrence David’s offer with tippers and container semi-trailers (platform skeletals).

“Ultimately, Wielton Group will also supply ready-made trailer chassis for Lawrence David products.”

Wielton curtain master trailer

Tim Blakemore
Tim Blakemore
Tim Blakemore is an award-winning automotive journalist and the former editor of our sister title, Commercial Vehicle Engineer magazine. He is also the UK representative on the panel of judges for the biennial, pan-European Trailer Innovation Award scheme.

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