Mercedes-Benz South Africa (MBSA) prides itself on the relationships it cultivates – and no-one symbolises this better than long-term MBSA customer and innovative product partner Andre Swart, of Agritrans.
Last week, Swart handed over a fleet of Mercedes-Benz trucks to his clients, John Deere in Boksburg. “It is the partnership between Agritrans, John Deere and Mercedes-Benz that has made this memorable day a possibility,” said Swart.
The handover was the end of the journey that began in 26 April 2012 when Swart took personal possession of a highly unusual, one-of-a-kind Mercedes-Benz Actros 1860 LS/36 BlueTec Euro5 truck at MBSA’s East London plant. Swart’s truck is so unique it had to be custom-built in Germany to meet his specific requirements.
Swart was so pleased with the delivery of the vehicle that he and his family flew to East London to personally accept the keys to his new truck – and then promptly drove the impressive, state-of-the-art new flagship of his fleet back to his Free State head office. “I have been involved in the transport business for 28 years and I used to be a truck driver,” says Swart.
“Taking delivery of my flagship is a lifelong dream comes true. A very special vehicle like this really is not intended to be applied like a normal run of the mill fleet number. After waiting anxiously there was no way that I would miss out on the opportunity of driving the new truck home myself,” said Swart.
Swart’s acceptance of his new Actros marked the first time in MBSA’s history that a custom-built vehicle was driven off the plant by its owner.
MBSA commercial vehicles division has a long-standing relationship with Swart and Agritrans, and was happy to accommodate his unique request.
Among the many detailed specification ordered by Swart was the new Actros’s eye-catching appearance. MBSA usually produces its commercial vehicles in standard white, but Swart’s new acquisition is a bright, attention-grabbing green – the exact hue of principal partner, John Deere.
“John Deere regards Agritrans as a partner and not just a supplier,” Swart says. “We in turn share this sentiment when it comes to Mercedes-Benz. The vehicle I took delivery of and its intended application symbolises these respective relationships that have been 15 years in the making. The fact that John Deere authorised Agritrans to colour and brand the new vehicle, and that Mercedes Benz went out of their way to accommodate our unusual order is testimony to that,” Swart stated.
Swart paid tribute to John Deere South Africa for their strong motivation in securing international authorisation to display the John Deere colours and branding. “This is a unique and very rare privilege.” He also reiterated his appreciation for MBSA’s unique brand of customer service.
“The way Mercedes Benz responds to the customer’s special requirements is a major contributing factor to the highly satisfactory relationship I enjoy with them. This is the people I want to do business with.”
Having now driven the impressive new vehicle a good distance across the country, Swart is equally enthusiastic about the overall performance of his new Actros.
“The first thought that crossed my mind when I saw the vehicle at the plant was that I had definitely made the right choice,” he says.
“I had very high expectations and I certainly was not disappointed. To then sit back and watch all the new technology at work was a real thrill.
Active Brake Assist is an unbelievable driver aid but the engine power and its management stole the show.”
Though the spectacular green colour might be the vehicle’s most obvious customisation, it boasts an impressive array of individual features. “The list is endless,” Swart says, “but among the most important specifications were the 600 horsepower BlueTec Euro 5 engine and the Active Brake Assist technology. We have never been disappointed whenever advances were made with technology in the Actros and wanted to ‘go green’ for obvious reasons.”
Diesel emissions from BlueTec Euro5 engines contain 80% less particles and 60% less NOx Gases (oxides of nitrogen) compared to Euro 3 engines; tests also show that with long distance travel, BlueTec can save up to 5% of the total fuel consumption.
Overall, BlueTec technology blends cleanliness with economy, reducing emissions and lowering fuel consumption, thereby complementing one another perfectly. The trucks and buses from Mercedes-Benz are all BlueTec pioneers, having successfully implemented the technology as a future-proof standard. Many of the models from these brands already comfortably undercut the Euro 5 emissions limits currently in force in Europe and fulfil the most stringent voluntary standard, EEV. On 1 June 2012, Swart introduced the rest of the Actros fleet to John Deere.
Carel Theron, marketing manager of John Deere thanked Swart and Mercedes-Benz for trucks that came in John Deere colours.