The value in a second chance
Often there is good life yet in a truck that has done its first stint of duty. REVVING UP THE INDUSTRY.
Breathing new life into seasoned trucks – that’s the challenge that sets the team at TruckStore apart from their rivals. As a Mercedes-Benz commercial vehicles “Value Chain” offering, this expansive one-stop facility has swiftly established itself on local soil as the fourth-largest used commercial vehicle sales outlet in the Daimler world. And this they have done in a mere ten months after opening for business, on a corner stand next to the Sandown Motors Commercial Vehicles Centurion business campus.
TruckStore welcomes trucks of all shapes and sizes through its doors. Its synergy with the Mercedes-Benz South Africa commercial vehicles dealer network gives it a business acumen that is sought after, be it as a service to fellow countrymen or those on the continent.
“Many customers from Durban and Cape Town fly in for the day, so we have a shuttle service to OR Tambo and the Gautrain,” says Oliver Marte, general manager of TruckStore Centurion. “We are also delighted at how quickly word has got around the continent about our facility serving Africa. TruckStore is an exciting concept because of our good variety of stock, and a large number of customers check on our website for the vehicles they want before visiting our site in person.”
Customers of vehicle sales already concluded come from Kenya, Mozambique, Namibia, Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland, Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Marte says business has progressed as expected, and they are looking at increasing volumes as a goal in 2013. He says that the TruckStore warranty has provided additional confidence to customers who might be purchasing a “second chance” vehicle for the first time.
Checking the VIN, engine and registration details as well as a detailed technical inspection, forms part of the process of examining the vehicle against benchmark TruckStore standards. “Our dedicated team really pulls out all the stops when a vehicle comes to us,” says workshop manager Eric Kreder. “Often it is at best, ‘mature’, and when work on it is complete we strive to have it once again working fully to its design capabilities.”
Historically, Africa has been the dumping ground for excess or cheap retired vehicles from Europe and America. The advantages for our friends on the continent of purchasing vehicles from TruckStore, Marte explains, are that their products are purpose-built for African markets. Operating conditions and legislation in Europe and America differ from those in Africa, so similar model vehicles are designed and reinforced for much more rugged conditions on the continent.
They subsequently last longer and have lower operating costs than those that come directly out of European and American markets. Undoubtedly, it is the one-stop shop, attention to detail and standards employed in the refurbishment process that gives customers peace of mind.
“Vehicles are put through an extensive refurbishment programme, accordingly to their gold, silver or bronze classification, thus ensuring that when customers take receipt of a truck, they get value for money according to the TruckStore price-performance ratio,” says Marte. Those in the gold category come with a comprehensive TruckStore warranty as standard, while the trucks in the silver bracket (usually vehicles with a mileage of 500 000 km to 600 000 km) are cheaper and a warranty is optional – as with the bronze category.
There are many used-vehicle outlets in the country, but we offer an unequalled service – from selling vehicles with warranties, to insurance and more. It is a one-stop shop for everything related to one’s purchase, and we’re the only used commercial vehicle dealership that has the full backing of our factory Mercedes-Benz South Africa,”
Marte adds. “What began as a strategic concept with financial muscle from Mercedes-Benz, and a desire to bring the successful European business model to Africa, has started to yield dividends.”
But it was not plain sailing in the beginning.
In fact, Marte concedes he may have underestimated the size of the challenge facing him and colleagues. Within weeks after the grand opening in September last year, which drew much media and business attention, transport strikes and an apparent reluctance by foreign investors to risk money in South Africa, threatened to put the brakes on TruckStore’s prospects.
However, the upbeat Marte is not one to succumb to any short-term gloom. Whilst relying on the proven business model he was convinced that any negative mood due to poli-economic factors in the climate at the time would be reversed through an aggressive planning strategy, as well as the belief that South Africa has great potential.
A subsequent realignment has seen things progressing well. “There is a long way to go before the industry will again experience business like in 2008, prior to the lows of the global financial crisis. I see the current positive trend continuing, although we do need a level of confidence where investments come in to play a part in the development of the country.”
But how does the new venture work step by step?
The first port of call for prospective buyers is TruckStore’s easy-to-navigate, user-friendly website (www.truckstore.co.za) where vehicle information, photos, prices and detailed descriptions are on view. Should the required vehicle not be immediately available, the system allows for customers to be alerted when a vehicle fitting their specific requirements becomes available for sale.
As soon as a used commercial vehicle is either traded in on a new vehicle, or sold directly to the outlet, it is put through a rigorous process to determine the state of the vehicle. It is assessed by trained personnel at the central relocation centre in Zandfontein who follow a thorough checklist, taking into account the vehicle’s history, and looking at what has to be done to meet the proposed remarketing category (gold, silver or bronze).
To ensure that benchmark standards are met, mostly original parts are used at TruckStore’s own workshops in Zandfontein, Pretoria – a different location to the retail yard in Centurion. The 14 sales, admin and management staff in Centurion, together with the strong mechanical team of 12 at Zandfontein, are complemented by external providers to assist with additional services such as panel-beating or valet services. If vehicles are deemed not suitable for sale at TruckStore, they are put up for sale at auctions, where prospective buyers may opt to fix the vehicle themselves or use it for spare parts.
“The final category classification is undertaken once our technical staff has completed all the preparation work required to bring vehicles to the prescribed standard. As soon as a vehicle is ready, it returns to Centurion to be put on display,” says Marte. While statistics for used vehicles are not freely available in South Africa, Marte looks forward to the day when there is transparency in this sector to facilitate better understanding of the business needs of the country.
“We offer trade-in cover prices to the entire MBSA commercial vehicle dealer network and we know that our volumes are already among the highest for used commercial vehicles in South Africa, and are well on track to achieve a potential 1 000 units a year,” he says.
While not exactly in the glitz style of MTV’s Pimp My Ride, at the Zandfontein facility the trucks are similarly reborn. Every part of the vehicle, from the seats to the engine, is replaced or repaired where required, and the body also gets a makeover to ensure stringent in-house classification standards are met. Once the vehicle has passed through the hands of the transforming mechanics, the next step is grading the vehicles into categories so customers will know exactly what is on offer when they purchase a vehicle.
There is nothing like a gold, silver or bronze medallion to indicate performance – thus the trucks are categorised, dependent on their price performance ratio. Those in the gold category rating fetch a premium price and come with a comprehensive warranty, while the trucks in the silver bracket – usually vehicles with a mileage of 500 000 km to 600 000 km – are cheaper and come with the option of a warranty.