UD Trucks Southern Africa is entering a new era with the appointment of a new managing director. Filip Van den Heede will be replacing Gert Swanepoel, who is retiring after 32 years with the company.

“It has been an incredible journey with UD Trucks, and it is truly the people and the relationships with customers and dealers that have made it worthwhile,” said Swanepoel. “It has been a privilege to be a part of the brand’s growth and development throughout the years, and I am excited about the future of UD Trucks in the region.”

Van den Heede has been involved in the trucking industry and the Volvo Group for the past 22 years and was previously Vice President of Vehicle Sales and Marketing for UD Trucks International Sales, which included responsibility for the southern African market. He has extensive experience in all aspects of the business, including aftermarket, business development, new product introductions and sales.

His appointment was effective 1 January 2020, while Swanepoel will fulfil a senior advisory role till the end of March this year.

“Last year was an extraordinary year for UD Trucks Southern Africa, as we launched three new model ranges in the region,” said Van den Heede. “Our customers now have access to an extensive model line-up, from medium to extra heavy commercial vehicles, backed by the company’s 58 years of experience in the local industry.”

He said customers remain the company’s core focus and the reason behind the continued investment in new products and services.

“We have one of the most extensive dealer networks in the region, with 36 dealers and service agents in South Africa and 30 in other southern African countries like Angola, Malawi, Mozambique, Mauritius, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe. As UD Trucks, we believe it comes down to the basics of supporting our customers every step of the way. To be there with professional service, parts and sales support throughout a truck’s lifecycle, and to keep on adding value to our customers’ businesses,” said Van den Heede.

UD Trucks Southern Africa’s head office and assembly plant is in Rosslyn, Pretoria, which includes a competency development centre that provides ongoing training to staff, fleet drivers, as well as dealer technicians, parts and sales personnel. During 2019, a total of 1 194 people was trained in the various aspects of the business.

“We passionately believe in the vital importance of training and investing in the future of our employees, dealers and surrounding communities,” said Van den Heede. “Ultimately, it is our customers who benefit.”

At its annual press conference, marketing director, Rory Schulz said that the performance of the commercial vehicle market was certainly erratic during 2019, as local economic conditions continued to be less than favourable.

“Despite all the odds, the total commercial vehicle market remained resilient and logged year-on-year growth of 2.1% at the end of 2019,” said Schulz. “However, transport operators continue to face severe cost pressures, with fluctuating diesel prices, the overall safety of drivers and trucks, as well as instances of civil unrest, hitting many operations hard in the past year.”

Schulz said that the Southern Africa truck market is quite unique as on the one hand there are customers who want their fleets to have highly developed technologies and systems, while others are happy to stick to the very basics.

“The region is somewhat of a dichotomy as you can drive by hi-tech logistical warehouses that support large international corporations, while at the same time trying to avoid potholes on the road. As a manufacturer, we must take these two worlds into consideration when introducing new products and technologies,” said Schulz. “By listening to our customers, and determining what they require in their specific businesses, we are able to provide them with the right truck for the job at hand.”

Globally, UD Trucks has already developed and implemented technology to addresses vehicle automation, electromobility and connectivity.

“Aspects such as connectivity through telematics, which was deemed unnecessary a few years ago, has become a very essential part of the modern fleet owner’s operations. Not only does it provide customers with real-time tracking of their vehicles, it allows UD Trucks to provide owners with proactive support through vehicle health monitoring and remote customer assistance,” explained Schulz. “In the process, it makes our customers’ fleets safer, more efficient and more productive.”

Global Developments
In December 2019 it was announced that the Volvo Group and Isuzu Motors signed a non-binding Memorandum of Understanding with the intent to form a strategic alliance within commercial vehicles in order to capture the opportunities in the ongoing transformation of the industry.

In a first step, the intention is to establish a global technology partnership and to create a stronger, combined heavy-duty truck business for Isuzu Motors and UD Trucks in Japan and across international markets. This will entail transferring ownership of the complete UD Trucks business globally from the Volvo Group to Isuzu Motors in order to accelerate growth by leveraging greater volumes and complementary capabilities.

The Memorandum of Understanding is non-binding. The next steps will be finalising the scope of the business to be transferred, due diligence by Isuzu Motors and negotiations of binding agreements. Signing of binding agreements is expected by mid-2020 and closing of the transaction is expected by the end of 2020. All potential transactions will be subject to regulatory and other approvals.