New kid with Mercedes genes pow­ers ahead

IN­TER­VIEW/ Phuti Mpyane had a Q&A with Ever­star In­dus­tries CEO Bob Wang about the past, present and fu­ture of its Pow­er­star trucks

Business Day - Motor News - - COMMERCIAL NEWS -

That rel­a­tively new truck­ing up­start Pow­er­star shares aes­thet­ics with the iconic MercedesBenz NG73/80 trucks is more than just a co­in­ci­dence.

Af­ter all, the Chi­nese truck man­u­fac­turer’s prod­uct has been shar­ing the genes of the leg­endary work­horse since the early days when BeiBen, the heavy-duty truck com­pany that is based in China, signed an agree­ment with Daim­ler-Benz in 1988 to man­u­fac­ture the Ger­man brand’s li­censed trucks and axles for the Chi­nese do­mes­tic mar­ket.

The fin­ished prod­uct went on to build a rep­u­ta­tion for strength in load­ing ca­pac­ity and dura­bil­ity through­out the world, in­clud­ing in SA.

Q: Your prod­uct has quite a global his­tory in the heavy-duty sec­tor. When was the lo­cal sub­sidiary es­tab­lished and how many deal­ers do you op­er­ate?

A: The com­pany was set up in 2012 af­ter be­ing orig­i­nally es­tab­lished by the Su­per Group in 2006. We as­sem­ble SKD ranges of Pow­er­star VX, Prime Mover V3 heavy-duty truck and the FT range at our Pi­eter­mar­itzburg assem­bly fa­cil­i­ties that are then sold and sup­ported by a net­work of 36 deal­ers na­tion­wide. We also have a retro­mod­i­fi­ca­tions wing at the assem­bly plant.

Q: Who is the typ­i­cal client of Pow­er­star prod­ucts?

A: Be­cause our Pow­er­star prod­uct range is lim­ited and more af­ford­able, our clien­tele is con­cen­trated mostly in the con­struc­tion in­dus­try where tip­pers, wa­ter tankers and such are in great de­mand. We also ser­vice startup en­trepreneurs who re­quire rea­son­ably priced equip­ment for a suc­cess­ful launch into the con­struc­tion in­dus­try busi­ness.

Q: Are 36 deal­ers suf­fi­cient to run a suc­cess­ful truck­ing busi­ness in SA?

A: Yes in­deed. It’s quite enough for our prod­uct range and sales pro­jec­tions. Our brand is com­par­a­tively still in its in­fancy and we con­tinue to build on the busi­ness, re­fin­ing the model and ex­pand­ing our prod­uct port­fo­lio.

Q. For most in­dus­tries, 2018 is a year that has proved dif­fi­cult and the sooner it passes the bet­ter. Was it the same case with your estab­lish­ment?

A: Yes, 2018 was very tough. We saw de­clines in new sales due largely to the eco­nomic cli­mate, par­tic­u­larly a de­crease in de­mand from our key clients such as en­trepreneurs, small medium and mi­cro en­ter­prises and the gov­ern­ment. But we are con­fi­dent that 2019 will be a bet­ter year for all.

Q: What can the in­dus­try ex­pect from Pow­er­star in 2019?

A: Ev­ery year we in­tro­duce up­dated ver­sions of our trucks and thus this is a pri­or­ity. How­ever, the big­ger plan is to ex­pand our port­fo­lio of prod­ucts. We’ve re­cently an­nounced the ad­di­tion of our new FT light and medium truck range to this mar­ket. At its small­est, it has a GVM of 7,500kg and tare weight of 2,560kg with pay­load ca­pac­ity of 4,940kg. With 500Nm between 1200rpm-1900rpm from its Cum­mins en­gine, the FT range is spot-on with in­com­ing changes to gov­ern­ment sanc­tioned broad-based BEE reg­u­la­tions, which will see more sup­port and de­vel­op­ment pro­grammes aimed at small-size, en­tre­pre­neur-run es­tab­lish­ments rather than fully fledged busi­ness units. The FT range is aimed at ad­dress­ing this par­tic­u­lar group as well as all po­ten­tial cus­tomers look­ing to bol­ster their fleets with any of our prod­ucts. We will also ex­pand into the long-haul sec­tor, in which we cur­rently don’t have rep­re­sen­ta­tion. But in 2019 we will have prod­uct fit for this sec­tor.

Q: With the au­to­mo­tive in­dus­try gripped by the shift to elec­tric driv­e­trains, what is the out­look from your per­spec­tive?

A: Re­search and de­vel­op­ment con­tin­ues on this as­pect and be­cause Pow­er­star is Chi­nese, it ben­e­fits from that coun­try’s gov­ern­ment sup­port pro­grammes in tech­nol­ogy and sub­si­dies. We al­ready have elec­tric truck driv­e­trains in use in that re­gion, but with us­age lim­ited to short dis­tances within Chi­nese cities.

The gov­ern­ment pro­vides at­trac­tive in­cen­tives such as a 50% fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance when pur­chas­ing elec­tric trucks and this is fur­ther sup­ported by re­stric­tions aimed at curb­ing the en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact by lim­it­ing diesel trucks to a min­i­mum al­lowance of op­er­a­tional hours, while elec­tric trucks can be in use 24 hours a day.

EV­ERY YEAR WE IN­TRO­DUCE UP­DATED VER­SIONS OF OUR TRUCKS. THE BIG­GER PLAN IS TO EX­PAND OUR PORT­FO­LIO

The Pow­er­star Fire En­gine show­cases one of many pos­si­ble ap­pli­ca­tions out­side of the con­struc­tion realm.

Bob Wang.

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