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On the road again: the year in truck developments

PMV Middle East surveys the activity in the heavy commercial vehicles segment over the last year, which has witnessed project launches, dealership changes, network expansion and major orders

Renault C and K trucks are being produced from knock-down kits on Saudi assembly lines.
Renault C and K trucks are being produced from knock-down kits on Saudi assembly lines.

The commercial vehicles segment is a market where there is always activity, not just in the Gulf, but globally. Regardless of oil prices and construction slowdowns, big logistics fleets always require a steady flow of trucks to renew their ageing models and in any growing economy, logistics is always on the rise.

However, the past 12 months in the Gulf have been pretty active for the segment across the board, regardless even of the adverse market conditions in construction. This activity has come in the form of both large product and product update announcements, as well as some major fleet orders.

Almost a year to date we saw the GCC-wide roll out of UD’s Quester heavy-duty truck in the GCC, beginning in Qatar. This model by Volvo-owned Japanese brand has been specifically tailored to the Middle East region over the course of six years of development and 1,500,000 engineering hours.

Prior to the regional launch, three UD Quester units — a water tanker, a tipper, and a garbage compactor – were tested by six Saudi Arabian customers for a period of six months, accumulating 65,000 test hours.

In June 2016, the Volvo Group also saw the launch of the first Renault trucks assembly line in Saudi Arabia operated by Arabian Vehicles & Trucks Industry (AVI) in King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC).

The facility in KAEC will be producing C and K range Renault truck models from knock-down kits and has the capacity to produce up to 4,000 trucks annually across the Renault and Volvo ranges.

In an interview with PMV in October, Patrice Roeser, product manager for Renault Trucks, explained: “The aim of the C-range is to save the weight and maximise the payload — this truck is built to operate within weight regulations; the K is built for robustness and upwards of 50 tonnes as an 8x4 rigid with a reinforced Optidriver Xtrem transmission, and upwards of 120 tonnes as a tractor unit.”

Volvo has also rolled out severe-duty I-Shift crawler gears, allowing the 750 HP FH16 to tow an incredible 325 tonnes for the toughest heavy transport applications.

Ford Trucks took the opportunity of The Big 5 Exhibition last November in Dubai to launch its 2017 series of Ford Trucks, a range with greater engine and braking power based on the manufacturer’s experience over the last three years in the region.

Equipped with Ford’s latest Euro III Ecotorq engines, the 2017 range deliver power ratings from 325hp and 424hp, and provide 55% more torque — up to 2,150Nm — all the while ensuring greater fuel economy than Ford’s previous generation of trucks for the region.

The 2017 Ford Trucks models have improved power but also braking force, with a braking system that is seven times stronger than in the previous generation. The retarder option and engine brake provide 600kW and 400kW of braking force respectively, for a total braking output of 1,000kW.

Ford Trucks is also developing its physical presence in the GCC and over the course of 2016, delivered facilities in Manama, Bahrain; Muscat, Oman; Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan; and has plans to establish a permanent facility in Doha, Qatar over the course of 2017.

Emrah Duman, director for international markets at Ford Trucks, noted: “We will be finished in two years’ time — by which point we will have the network to support our 2020 target of 10% market share in the region.”

CNH Industrial has also been making waves, with the relaunch of both Iveco and Astra truck brands in Saudi Arabia in 2016, with FAMCO as its new distribution partner. The launch events were attended by 650 industry professional from across the country over three events in Dammam, Riyadh and Jeddah.

Heavy-duty trucks represent Iveco and Astra’s core business in both the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Pierre Lahutte, Iveco Brand President, noted: “FAMCO is a reputable organisation with a strong financial capability and widespread network in Saudi Arabia that will provide us with business opportunities both in terms of sales and aftersales services.”

In February 2017, Tata launched two heavy-duty construction trucks in Saudi Arabia: the Prima 4x2 4438.S tractor head and the Prima 6x4 4038.K construction tipper — both with 380HP Cummins engines and nine-speed Eaton transmissions — to be sold under the dealership of Manahil International Company, a unit of Mohamed Yousuf Naghi & Brothers Group.

As transpired this March, the UAE’s Swaidan Trading partnered with DAF Trucks, from the Netherlands, in October. Based in the industrial city of Eindhoven, which is also the home of VDL buses, the brand was previously distributed in the UAE through Al Tayer Motors, which now represents Ford Trucks.

Harris Kaladi, GM for commercial vehicles and heavy equipment at Swaidan Trading, said: “We hope to have 150 trucks on the road by the end of the year, and given the market situation and size, 150 is a good market share.”

He added: “Whoever has experienced DAF will prefer to go forward with DAF because of the quality of the end product. Even in Europe, DAF Trucks became the number one truck in 2016 for tractor heads and it is currently in third position for rigid trucks.”

March also saw Dammam’s Al Khaldi Transport’s purchase of 540 heavy- and medium- duty Mercedes-Benz trucks from Juffali Industrial Products Company for use in the energy and infrastructure sectors, raising the group’s MB-branded fleet to approximately 1,045 units.

Earlier in the year, Daimler Commercial Vehicles MENA also launched a special edition Actros 3844 S 6x4 truck with the full suite of Daimler driver assistance technologies for the very first time: Active Brake Assist, Telligent Lane Assistant, Telligent Proximity Control.

This order was followed up in April by the purchase of 27 6x6 Mercedes-Benz Zetros 3643 AS trucks by Abu Dhabi’s Suhail Al Mazroui Transportation and Heavy Equipment supplied by Emirates Motor Company.

All in all, it’s been a positive first quarter for Daimler, but the year has also seen significant dynamism on the parts of UD, Volvo, Renault, Ford Trucks, Iveco and DAF Trucks.

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