In a world where there is such a bewildering choice of products on offer, strong brands act as a beacon to customers. They help fulfil products and services with characteristics and values that set them apart from the rest of the field. They make certain promises – and if the promises are kept, they engender trust and, ultimately, brand loyalty.
“Our theme this year is clear – it’s all about the life-cycle and value-chain!” says Kobus van Zyl, Vice President; Commercial Vehicles, Mercedes-Benz South Africa.
“Our commercial vehicle sales have been strong despite a challenging market. It is again clear that in softening market conditions, customers tend to return and many stay with established and traditional brands. Our differentiators and competitive advantages along the whole value-chain enable us to maintain and increase our share of market,” adds Van Zyl.
Atego with uprated Euro 3 engines
A number of customers are taking the environment more seriously and have requested vehicles with lower emissions. Mercedes-Benz Commercial Vehicles have now uprated the entire Atego range, which competes in the weight class from 8,5t through 16.5t, to Euro 3 although the South African legal requirement is Euro 2.
Previously the Atego range, from the Atego 817 /33 to the Atego 1517 4×4 units were all been Euro 2 compliant.
With the Mercedes-Benz Atego, the emphasis is on the critical requirements of distribution transport – reliability, long service life, fuel economy, ease of maintenance, plus special focus on agility and driveability, cab and major aggregate access and safety. The optional Telligent automated gearshift, available across the entire Atego model range, enables the driver to concentrate fully on driving and combine comfort with convenience.
The Axor – Custom built for Africa
“The Mercedes-Benz Axor is custom built for Africa and since introduction in 2003, the 4×2, 6×2 and 6×4 models have been an unprecedented success,” says Van Zyl.
The Mercedes-Benz Axor proves to be the more versatile hybrid truck for short, medium and long distance handling. The Axor combines the best technological attributes of the Actros as well as the simplistic attributes of the Atego. Being the perfect blend of the two, the result is a vehicle based on proven, rugged components.
The Axor is available in a considerably wider range of variants, the two-axle truck tractor (4×2) which featured in the original line-up are now complemented by three-axle models with a permissible GVM of 25 tonnes (6×2) and 26 tonnes (6×4). Another feature is the powerful OM 906 LA six-cylinder in-line engine, which has proven its worth in the previous Atego heavy series.
Ideally suited as a fleet vehicle for work in the transport and distribution industries, the Mercedes-Benz Axor truck tractor comes standard with the Telligent air suspension which adjusts according to the load on the vehicle.
The customer therefore has the best of both worlds, the vehicle is robust enough for the toughest job and equally at home on long distance routes.
The Actros – Truck of the year 2009
Twelve years ago, the Actros revolutionised the truck world with the introduction of the first electro-pneumatic braking system in combination with all-round disc brakes. Soon after, further safety and assistance systems were added. The Actros once again set new standards with the Active Brake Assist system and the new-generation ‘Mercedes-Benz PowerShift’ transmission.
Actros was voted Truck of the Year 2009 by a group of trade journalists from 21 European countries, who paid tribute to the enhanced economy, environmental compatibility, safety and comfort afforded by innovative technology.
“We look forward to the first quarter of 2009, when we will introduce the next generation Actros,” says Van Zyl.
“Our flagship model – the Mercedes-Benz Actros 2661 LS – has been purpose built as a show truck. Its royal blue bulk has graced many dealer conferences and functions across the country. We have utilised this truck-tractor in our ongoing research into, among other focus areas, fuel consumption, power-to-weight ratio analysis and the like,” adds Van Zyl.
The Actros 3550S/33 on display is a special made- to-order unit for abnormal loads. This low-bed application is suitable for heavy earthmoving equipment up to 120 tons GCM and is ideally suited for long-distance. With the demand in the industry for new sub-stations and the like, there will be a demand for the Actros to move such heavy equipment.
The versatile Sprinter
The Van division has a number of versions of the popular Sprinter on display.
The Sprinter 4×4 is based on a standard Mercedes-Benz Sprinter panel van and/or chassis cab, which is converted by Iglhaut to customer specification. The basic drive train used is the same as the standard Sprinter. However, the front axle has been converted into a driving axle together with 3 diff-locks and transfer gearbox, including low-range (i=2,5). The vehicle is fitted with tyres ranging from 265 – 285 – 315 x 16 inch wheels, dependent on the application and usage of the vehicle. The Sprinter 4×4 has a five-speed manual gearbox with permanent four-wheel drive.
This 4×4 conversion with its wheel changes gives maximum ground clearance of 300 mm, making it a real off-road all terrain vehicle. The approach and departure angles are dependant on the wheelbase. The Sprinter 315 CDI with a wheelbase of 3 665 mm, has a front approach angle of 31º and a departure angle of 35º. The Sprinter 318 CDI with a wheelbase of 3 250 mm, has a front approach angle of 36º and a departure angle of 35º.
The Sprinter Crew-Cab in a 518CDI variant, seating up to 7 persons comfortably is the ideal crew vehicle for the construction and ancillary industries.
The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter once again proves its remarkable position as the basic platform for top-end camper vans. On display is a mobile home ideally suited to South Africa’s wide open spaces. The convenience of driver and passenger seats that swivel to also serve as dinette seating are one of the many highlights of the conversion.
Bodybuilders also chose the Sprinter chassis because of the increased fuel efficiency which also means it is a more ‘environmentally friendly’ and it is a multi-purpose motorhome with upscale features and attractive amenities.
“With 2010 around the corner we are pleased that a number of motor-home body-builders have opted for the Sprinter as the ultimate combination of state-of-the-art comforts and ergonomic innovation,” adds Van Zyl.
The Vito with increased performance
The Vito 120 CDI crew-bus is a new introduction with the top of the range V6 diesel engine previously seen only in the Viano. This Vito sets new standards in engineering, power development and running characteristics. The V6 diesel engine with 3,0-litre displacement achieves impressive ‘numbers’ for diesel engines in the category of MPVs with it output of 150 kW of power and maximum torque of 440 Nm.
The crew-bus model in the new Mercedes-Benz Vito range can carry up to eight people in comfort, whist still offering a luggage capacity of up to 970 cubic metres. Passengers will find a sophisticated ambience awaiting them in the interior, which sports full trim panelling and seats designed for comfortable long-distance motoring.
The seats can be attached to mounting points with quick-release locks, similar to those found on aeroplanes. This helps make light work of removing the seats in the Vito and of adapting the interior to any changes in current requirements. All seats are fitted with integral three-point seat belts, two or four-way head restraints.
Buses and coaches contribute to urban mobility and city evolution
“Our Bus and Coach division is extremely active and growing rapidly. With the buzzword of BRT – Bus Rapid Transit – we expect exciting developments in their area,” says Van Zyl.
“BRT is a faster means of transport, something that will be welcomed, as we are all experiencing the congestion of traffic in all major cities in South Africa,” adds Van Zyl.
It is a known fact that transportation systems contribute to urban mobility and city evolution. They lead to enhanced social equality and quality of life, while preventing traffic circulation breakdown. Mercedes-Benz has a wealth of experience in the area of BRT and successfully manufactures the product most suited to this form of transportation – the 0500 series – which was identified, after a lot of research, as best suited for BRT.
Despite the significant benefits offered by BRT systems as opposed to other modes of transportation, a ‘Champion’ is nonetheless required in every major city to ensure successful implementation.
“Our BRT philosophy focuses on services and products. Planning is crucial to the success of the project and we offer support in selection of adequate planning resources. These resources include the choice of best suited vehicles, efficient support in maintenance and after-sales support and tailored conditions of vehicle financing,” adds Van Zyl.
Mercedes-Benz Bus and Coach are in a position to offer the complete vehicle and chassis for the BRT project. In early 2006 a CKD (completely knocked-down) bus line was opened at the plant in East London.
“We recently invested a further R13-million in the bus line, putting us in the unique position to assemble all required bus types from high-floor to low-entry from 10 mm – 12 mm to 18 mm bush chassis locally in South Africa.
An ongoing training scheme, where staff from the East London assembly plant, are sent to work on the production line in Brasil is proving extremely successful as they in turn officially train staff in South Africa.
“With winning partnerships in BRT we believe we are thinking ahead today and shaping tomorrow,” says Van Zyl.
The Multego is the highlight of the bus division, and is the first Mercedes-Benz branded coach in South Africa. With the booming sector of international and local tourists, including and beyond the Soccer World Cup 2010, the MULTEGO addresses the specific demands of the travel and tourist industry.
“The MULTEGO was originally developed for the Mexican market and has proven over the last six years to be best suited for long-distance operations in tough conditions. Mexico has similar typography and climatic conditions to SA, such as road conditions, altitude and temperature. With these external factors playing a major role, we know that the MULTEGO will be a success, says Van Zyl.
The development of the bus-body was a joint project between the Mercedes-Benz design centre in Germany and our body-building partner, Marco Polo. Initially the MULTEGO will be fully imported, but very soon they will be locally assembled with a body-building partnership.
The East London plant has been upgraded to suit the local assembly of the 0500 RSD 2436 rear-engine chassis. This chassis will soon be fitted with a Euro 3 rear-engine and in addition the driver will have the comfort of an automatic gear-box.
Your preferred value-chain partner
“All of these products and services need support and back-up. On top of our already benchmark features including uptime initiatives, we are now introducing two further complimentary product offerings – CharterWay and Fleetboard,” says Van Zyl.
Mercedes-Benz CharterWay offers its customers a one-stop shop for all their procurement and service needs. The range of services consists of individual, combined service modules for tailor-made solutions aimed at all industries and types of operation. Predictable costs, flexibility and fail-safe operation are key components of each product.
Mercedes-Benz CharterWay offers its services in three product lines: CharterWay Service, CharterWay Service Leasing and CharterWay Rental. All of which provides haulage and logistics companies with optimum flexibility.
The CharterWay Service product line is offered in various service levels. From a simple warranty covering the powertrain, through to coverage of all maintenance work, right up to a fully comprehensive option – customers can conveniently choose one of the various levels offered for each service.
FleetBoard provides state-of-the-art vehicle and driver management information, offering objective and comparative data from each freight vehicle in the fleet. This provides an overview of the operational performance of individual vehicles, fuel levels and consumption as well as driver’s work profiles, which includes evaluations and gradings.
“Currently we have 50 – 60 vehicles in operation with Fleetboard. We have already had positive results on previous pilot tests,” says Van Zyl.
After the results were analysed, the drivers were retrained to develop the necessary competent driving skills. Since the training, the operators have had significant results in all areas of their business. The customer can operate and manage the processes, as Fleetboard is an internet based system.
So successful is the programme that currently there are 35 000 units in Europe running with Fleetboard.
Unimog U 4000 and U 5000 for all-terrain operations
The new high-mobility Unimog U 4000 and U 5000 model range has been developed for difficult all-terrain operations in areas where roads and tracks are few and far between. Production of the Unimog range is at the Mercedes-Benz truck facility in Wörth.
With its superior off-road capabilities, the new Uni¬mog model range is the natural choice for extreme-terrain operation. Its principal applications will be in fire-fighting – particularly in forested areas – in disaster aid, as a chassis for expedition vehicles and for carrying out service, maintenance work at out-of-the-way locations, public services and municipal contractors, in the construc¬tion and energy industries and in intra-plant transport.
The new high-mobility Unimog U 4000 and U 5000 range combines the tradi¬tional Unimog virtues such as soundness, robustness, long life, reliability and the almost legendary four-wheel-drive concept with state-of-the-art en¬gine and transmission technology and excellent ergonomics.
As the Unimog is customised, it will be available in South Africa on a made-to-order basis as of first quarter 2009.