Logistics And Frieght Forwarding

Volvo Trucks targets strong growth in slowly recovering Africa

Volvo Trucks should this year sell around 250 new trucks in Southern African markets outside South Africa, says Volvo Group Southern Africa president Torbj?rn Christensson. Three years from now, in 2019, the company wants sales in these Southern African markets to grow to 1 000 trucks a year. Advertisement

Volvo Group Southern Africa is responsible for 16 markets south of – and including – Ethiopia and Angola. Christensson says used truck sales should reach around 1 000 in South Africa this year, of which 150 will find their way to Southern African markets outside South Africa. Africa should not be viewed as a marketplace for used vehicles, or for Indian or Chinese products only, he adds.

There is a distinct appetite for premium trucks. “South African transporters are moving into Africa, for example, and they demand reliable trucks.” The Volvo truck on sale in the rest of Africa may differ from one found in Sweden, however, as it is likely to be a Euro 3 truck with drum brakes – in other words, more suitably specced for demanding African conditions, says Christensson.

“We believe in Africa,” notes Volvo Trucks International senior VP Helene Mellquist. “It is a question of when, not if the market will grow, even if there are some fluctuations now.” “We see signs that the commodity cycle is turning up,” adds Christensson. “We think we have seen the worst of the downturn.” A low oil price and slumping commodity market have caused economic hardship in a number of African countries, particularly in oil-exporting states.

While Mellquist does not want to talk specific investment numbers into Africa, she says Volvo is busy rolling out its network – through importers – in Zambia, Tanzania, Angola, Ethiopia and Kenya. Volvo trucks are sold separately from UD Trucks stock in Africa. Volvo owns the Japanese-based UD Trucks.

In South Africa, Volvo Trucks has invested in a new Alrode workshop, with Durban’s truck centre the next focus point. Volvo Trucks in South Africa has expanded from 13 service points in 2013, to 19 service points in 2016. South Africa is “a very important market” for Volvo Trucks, says Mellquist.

The group has learned to adapt to the demands of the market, including black economic empowerment, which “is a natural thing for South Africa”. Christensson believes a more stable political situation could lead to a more stable currency. Volvo Group Southern Africa should see 2016 Volvo truck sales in South Africa improve on last year.

Volvo trucks are sold in 192 countries worldwide. South Africa is ranked third in terms of sales in Mellquist’s area of responsibility, which includes Africa, the Middle East and Asia. AUTONOMOUS DRIVING
The Volvo group will focus its efforts towards developing autonomous drive trucks around off-road sites, such as mines, first, with on-road tests to follow, says Mellquist.

Socially, it will be a hard-won battle to implement large-scale autonomous driving on-road, she says, even though the technology exists to do so.

As for alternative drive trains, electric trucks will certainly make their debut in the not-too-distant future, but in the shorter-distance distribution market first, and not Volvo’s main market of long-haul transport, says Mellquist.

The battery technology to do so is not available yet.

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