UD Trucks Southern Africa-60 Years of Ultimate Dependability

UD Trucks Southern Africa is on a growth trajectory, showing resilience and moving in line with its Better Life strategy.

Boasting a history of six decades, UD Trucks Southern Africa has developed a strong reputation as a credible, successful truck OEM. Founded in 1935, UD Trucks is a leading Japanese commercial vehicle solutions provider that is active in more than 60 countries across all continents.

Managing Director Mr. Filip Van den Heede explains that UD Trucks is a well-established company in the country, with an assembly plant and head office in Rosslyn near Pretoria, and operating a network of more than 40 dealers to support customers throughout the country.

Complete solution

In addition to South Africa, UD Trucks supplies customers in the whole sub-Saharan region, consisting of 11 countries including Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Eswatini, Botswana, Mauritius, Namibia, and others, as well as the islands of Mauritius and Seychelles. The customer base ranges across different industries, from large, local, and international multinational companies to smaller businesses and start-ups.

The company’s range of trucks is engineered, developed, and rigorously tested to meet the harsh operating conditions in the Southern Africa region, where fleets benefit from the efficient design, state-of-the-art technology, high-quality assembly, and dependable support. “UD Trucks has an extremely good brand reputation in South Africa because of the reliability of the vehicles and uptime provided by dealers,” says Mr. Van den Heede.

“The South-African market is currently achieving the biggest volume of sales outside Japan,” he continues, pointing out that the company offers a full range of heavy-duty trucks – Quon and Quester, and medium-duty trucks – Croner and Kuzer.

“The Croner, according to some of our customers, is the most economical medium-duty truck on the market. It is easy to drive and very fuel-efficient. The performance is significantly enhanced by the Allison gearbox, supplied by Associated Automotive Distributors (AAD). AAD is a key supplier to us, as the Allison transmission is a big part of our Croner offering. With the Allison gearbox, the performance is significantly enhanced, enabling it to withstand the toughest demands in diverse operating environments.”

He further points out that UD Trucks strives to provide the customer with a complete solution, which allows customers to focus on running their business operations efficiently. “With tailored solutions such as UD Trust Service agreements, UD Genuine Service and Genuine Parts, and UD Telematics, to name just a few, we ensure uptime and reduced total cost of ownership for our customers.”

Better life purpose

UD Trucks Southern African sales have risen sharply over the last few years but Filip Van den Heede affirms that it’s not just about pure growth numbers. It is important to align the business’s growth aspirations with its purpose. Thus, the company has defined four pillars for its development: ‘Better for Logistics’, ‘Better for People’, ‘Better for Planet’, and ‘Better for Business’.

“As an organization, we strive to pursue our strategy for a better life. In terms of our people, we focus on skills development, supporting our staff across the board, and specifically within the Black Broad Based Economic Empowerment (BBBEE).  As part of our external efforts, we have launched several initiatives aimed at providing schools and communities with much-needed solutions.”

“We have also partnered with the Commercial Transport Academy (CTA). Our goal is to make a positive contribution towards gender transformation in the trucking industry by encouraging female drivers to enter the field. We have sponsored two Kuzer light-medium duty trucks to enable women to join the CTA’s driver training program, which teaches them not only driving skills but also the knowledge of a variety of important topics such as entrepreneurial skills.”

To improve the lives of customers, UD Trucks – with the long-standing reputation of a Japanese innovator – continues to bring innovation to the market. The company has long invested in Smart Logistics solutions, outfitting its trucks with connected devices and safety features that can analyze data in real-time to improve efficiency and safety. Since 2021, first in the South African market, UD Trucks has been offering telematics, developed in-house, as standard on all new trucks sold, to enable customers to take their performance and TCO to new levels.

The company also leads the way in terms of a reduced environmental footprint, looking at greener solutions such as solar panels and wastewater treatment at its factory. On the product side, UD Trucks introduced Euro 5 trucks ahead of regulations in South Africa. A Euro 5 system with SCR (selective catalytic reduction) technology has long since been a globally proven technology for reducing the carbon footprint, lowering NOx (nitrogen oxide) levels, and ensuring cleaner emissions. The Euro 5 range was expanded in 2022, with the addition of new Quester and Croner models.

Mr. Van den Heede reflects: “We were market share leading up to 2021 in selling Euro 5 products in the market, and to date, we have produced and sold close to 1,000 Euro 5 units in South Africa, consistently staying one step ahead of local regulations and market demand.”

Growing with demand

Despite the market turbulence caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, global socio-political unrest, and global supply chain constraints, UD Trucks has managed to keep its business buoyant. “We have weathered the storm of the past two years without a single lay-off. In a country with 32% unemployment, that builds strong loyalty. Our sales now exceed the pre-pandemic levels as the total truck market is booming,” says Mr. Van den Heede.

In line with increasing demand, the company continues to invest in product enhancement, focusing on improved connectivity, automation, and electro-mobility in its product offering, and plans to open three new dealerships this year in strategic areas of the country.

“We are building a dealer network that is future-proof – we are working with our dealers on upgrading the physical facilities so that they are ready to cater for the growth that we are planning here in South Africa and also for the sales growth of the new vehicles,” says Van den Heede, adding that the company is also planning to add a passenger bus offering to its product line, to be launched in May.

“We will continue to grow into the emerging markets in the sub-Saharan region. We believe in providing a good service, and we believe in a long-term commitment to supporting our customers and creating cost benefits for them. Over the years, UD Trucks has built an organization in Southern Africa that is in a position to cater well to the challenges of the coming years.”

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