Given their benchmark-busting sales performance, Isuzu Trucks has successfully dispelled any fears about 13 being an unlucky number, or 2013 being a year for low sales. Rather, last year was one for the company’s record books.
When Isuzu Truck South Africa’s Chief Operating Officer, Craig Uren, took the stage in January at the company’s press briefing, it was with quiet confidence. The reason for this was soon revealed: Isuzu Trucks sales performance in 2013 broke several records for the company locally.
“2013 was surprisingly buoyant and successful as a market, experiencing just under 12% growth,” revealed Uren. “No one stood here this time last year predicting double-digits, that’s for sure.”
While the South African truck industry out-performed many other South African industries’ growth, Isuzu Trucks in turn greatly outperformed the truck industry’s growth with year-on-year growth of around 28% compared to 2012.
According to Uren, 2013 was the first year in the company’s history that over 4 000 Isuzu trucks have been sold in South Africa – 4 019 units to be precise – and two of the company’s three highest-volume months also came in 2013.
History buffs may recall that the last time Isuzu Trucks got close to this sales level in South Africa was back in 1981, when they sold 3 890 trucks into the market. This was ahead of Atlantis Diesel Engines coming into play in 1982, and uncertainty surrounding legislation and sanctions making ADE compulsory for manufacturers resulting in the rush on source-powered stock.
In October 1981 Isuzu also sold 512 trucks, its previous top-selling month, while in December last year Isuzu Trucks broke that record as well with 522 trucks – ending the year in style.
Making this achievement particularly significant for the company, breaching the 4 000-barrier has also seen Isuzu Trucks moving up into the second-place position in terms of market share in South Africa’s total commercial vehicle market, with 13%.
If only the sales of cab-over trucks – not buses or vans – are considered, Isuzu’s market share climbs even further to first place at 15,6%, with the second and third place manufacturers securing 15,3% and 11,5% respectively.
“As a brand, we are the top-selling cab-over truck brand in this country currently, and this is not planned to be a one-off,” Uren promised journalists attending the conference. “In October 2006 we started the campaign to get to this particular point.”
A Fresh Viewpoint
While some industry players have been caught off-guard by Isuzu’s stunning performance, Uren has taken it all in his stride, explaining that it was part of the plan locally.
“If you watch the news and read the newspapers’ doom and gloom, you’re going to make bad decisions. If you take things into the context of the industry – what’s happening out there that’s realistic – and make decisions based on what’s happening ahead of you instead of what’s behind you, that to me is the fundamental difference,” he said.
“Everyone looks to the history to make decisions about the future, but if you don’t know what the future holds, how can you make good decisions about where you’re going?”
Uren explained to journalists that in his view commercial vehicle sales in the 30 000 to 35 000 units range are perfectly justifiable, and is the equilibrium for making the South African economy tick with the transport environment – even without prominent events like the Soccer World Cup to push the market to extremes.
For Isuzu Trucks, however, there is also a deep personal connection involved behind the numbers.
“We’ve had amazing responses of how proud dealers are, and how hard they worked to a plan. We’re really looking to the future with a fresh pair of eyes and new momentum, because our plan was to get to this point in ten years and we’ve gotten to it in seven years,” said Uren.
“We’re ahead of the game from that perspective: this is not just a one-hit wonder plan for 2013, but rather a step to get to the next step. Are we going to grow again this year? Absolutely.”
He is so confident, in fact, that he has ear-marked 4 000 units as the brand’s minimum sales volume for 2014.
From Strength To Strength
For commentators who see the 2013 sales as a ‘magical number’, Uren attributes it rather to Isuzu Trucks’ product line-up, specification and the provision of cost-saving solutions to customers. Given the number of truck bodies that Isuzu Trucks build themselves, their supply chain can be managed relative to body fitments and fulfilling customers’ orders on time is therefore also relatively easy.
“We are growing our customer base significantly ever month with new customers because we are providing their businesses with better bottom lines,” said Uren. “That’s the way we sell: we don’t necessarily sell cheaper trucks, but we do sell better bottom lines.”
Amongst other plans going forward, Isuzu Trucks also has goals for its extra-heavy Gigamax range, and Uren also referred to the possibility of an introduction of a less technologically-advanced line of Isuzu trucks.
“We’re getting more involved in Africa, so those plans have a lot of synergy,” he hinted. “It’s not an overnight thing, but watch that space. As usual, we’ll be different.”