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Bridging the gap: Tariq Al Rasheed on reforming truck market aftersales

Tariq Al Rasheed, retail director for Nasser Bin Abdullatif Alserkal, discusses its partnership with Dubai Municipality to deliver an aftersales first for Dubai’s Truck & Heavy Equipment Market

Tariq Al Rasheed is the retail director for Nasser Bin Abdullatif Alserkal, the distributor of Bridgestone tyres in Dubai and the Northern Emirates.
Tariq Al Rasheed is the retail director for Nasser Bin Abdullatif Alserkal, the distributor of Bridgestone tyres in Dubai and the Northern Emirates.

While the Gulf is awash with ambitious projects and attempts at game-changing industry developments by both government and private organisations, it is rarer that such intentions are translated into a concerted effort to bring about substantive change in an area as niche as the delivery of heavy commercial vehicle peripherals.

Nevertheless, the plans for the construction of the Alserkal Bridgestone Truck Tyre Centre in the Truck & Heavy Equipment Market in the Ruwaya area — in partnership with the Dubai Municipality — marks a clear break from a number of conventions in both tyre distribution and truck servicing.

In all, Nasser Bin Abdullatif Alserkal Est., the Dubai-based distributor of Bridgestone tyres in Dubai and the Northern Emirates, is investing $2.7m in what will be its very first direct retail outlet in the UAE.

Nasser Bin Abdullatif Alserkal previously operated largely through its local network of dealers, supporting its product with a range of services, but not selling Bridgestone tyres directly to the customer. That will all change with the opening of the Alserkal Bridgestone Truck Tyre Centre operation in 2018.

Prime position

However, perhaps more fundamental change in the market that the centre will provide to Nasser Bin Abdullatif Alserkal’s Bridgestone customers is a location on Emirates Road: the road bypassing the urban areas of the emirates where, critically, there are no restrictions on the movements of heavy commercial vehicles.

Tariq Al Rasheed, retail director at Nasser Bin Abdul Latif Alserkal Est., explains: “It actually started with the Dubai Municipality initiative to build its specialised Truck & Heavy Equipment Market for the segment.

“This market was needed because there were many dealers of trucks and parts either in Dubai or in Sharjah, but there was no specific area set aside for them in terms of infrastructure, roads and accessibility, and with no time restrictions for trucks.

“There were facilities available in some places, but trucks might not be able to reach them, or not allowed to leave — because of the time restrictions. So the Truck & Heavy Equipment Market solved this issue, because it’s on the truck road and operators are allowed to go there at any and any time.”

The nature of Nasser Bin Abdul Latif Alserkal’s partnership with Dubai Municipality is also a development worth noting, as the authority has granted Alserkal exclusive rights for truck servicing within the Truck & Heavy Equipment Market.

The deal is a coup for Alserkal, because the same issue of the timing restrictions for trucks on certain roads also applies just as equally to the positioning of truck service centres.

Al Rasheed explains: “Downtime is very costly for truck companies. At present, many vehicles may have to wait on the highway, waiting for the correct time to enter the city — but in this time, with the truck centre, they could be having a service, saving some time.”

This conclusion also stems directly from the customer feedback gathered by Alserkal, as Al Rasheed explains: “We know from our market studies, and from our dealings with customers, that it is a problem. We have sat down with all the big truck dealers, and they gave us their requirements, and it is based on this that we are building the truck centre.”

Municipal market

This municipality-owned and operated truck market covers an area of 421,000m2, and consists of 88 showrooms for trucks, 60 showrooms for spare parts — alongside large open yard areas for the storage of trucks, trailers and associated plant and equipment.

The development was completed in 2014, following the investment of $19.66m by the Dubai Municipality and opened with 30 approved lease holders. Today, many more truck and transport firms call the market home, and will present a ready market for the Alserkal Bridgestone Truck Tyre Centre.

Al Rasheed notes: “We will be exclusively positioned in the centre of this market, so it is very interesting for us. We were looking to have this model of service centre somewhere where it would really make a difference — and through this partnership with the municipality we have acquired the ideal location.”

Ecumenical service

The Alserkal Bridgestone Truck Tyre Centre is also drastically expanding the services provided by Nasser Bin Abdullatif Alserkal Est., from tyre products and tyre-related services, to a full suite of truck servicing facilities and functions, including repairs and a truck wash.

The 4,830m2 facility being built by Nasser Bin Abdullatif Alserkal will included a total of 18 truck bays equipped to provide services including tyre adjustment and replacement, oil and battery changes, washing, minor repairs, vehicle testing and registration — through ENOC’s Tasjeel — and vehicle insurance.

In essence, the facility will provide almost every conceivable service that lease holders within the truck and heavy equipment market, as well as fleet operators that choose to visit the centre will need in terms of routine service.

Al Rasheed is also certain that the centre will be the very first of its kind, noting: “We studied the market, and there is no facility that offers all of these services under one roof. There are some truck centres where they wash and repair, but they belongs to certain brands, — for example Renault or Volvo: to the brand or their agency — they do not serve others.”

The Alserkal centre, by way of contrast, will be a great equaliser, providing the same basic set of services in a single location for the entire market, regardless of brand, making it suitable even for operators with highly mixed fleets.

Tyre tactics

Needless to say, the partnership is also a coup for Bridgestone as a tyre manufacturer — as its products will now occupy pride of place along the truck road along the UAE’s spine.

Al Rasheed notes: “It’s usually best to be in the path of the trucks coming from Abu Dhabi to Fujairah. But it’s difficult to find locations, so any location on the way is invaluable.”

The centre will also raise the profile of Bridgestone tyres in the Emirates, by exposing every driver and fleet operator that pays a visit the centre to a dose of Bridgestone branding.

Al Rasheed is also keen to expand the use of Bridgestone’s Toolbox, which is in essence a telematics system for tyres based on RFID tags embedded inside Bridgestone tyres.

He explains: “If we install the system for a customer, the RFID system lets us know when there is a problem with the tyres, when the tyres should come for maintenance, as well as the full maintenance history.”

The current version of Bridgestone ToolBox only sends information to the distributor, who must then contact the customer, but the next update will also include telematics connectivity, allowing fleet customers to inspect the status of their tyres themselves.

The system is useful both for flagging safety issues and for preventative maintenance.

Al Rasheed notes: “It’s for maintenance, and for a lot of fleet customers, it’s a saving tool.”

The system is also useful for informing the distributor when tyres are due for retreading — an area of customer service where Bridgestone also has a decisive advantage.

Al Rasheed continues: “There are two tyre brands that set the standards for retreading: Bridgestone and Michelin — because their sidewalls, or casing, can handle the process twice. Bridgestone’s sidewalls can handle the weight for much longer than other brands.”

Nasser Bin Abdullatif Alserkal will also soon be opening its own retreading facility under the name of Bandag — the Bridgestone-owned US brand and global leader in retreading.

Battle of the brands

However, the next step with regards to the truck tyre centre will be signing of additional partnerships with various suppliers of oils, lubricants, batteries and other peripherals.

For this process, Al Rasheed notes: “Again, we will have to look at the market. We could sign with ENOC Lubricants easily, but is it the preferred oil for truck users? This is something we need to know. The same applies to batteries. We know the position of Solite, but now we have time to study and see if Solite, again, is a preferred battery for truck users.”

As is the trend in other segments, the truck tyre centre is indicative of the shift in every industry away from a product- to a solution-based approach, as Al Rasheed continues: “We currently have part of the solution: we are providing excellent tyres. But customers need more: they need faster maintenance, easier access, a professional approach and advice — all of which we cannot provide if we are not in the market as a retailer, unless it is a government fleet where they deal directly with us, and we serve them directly with a mobile unit.”

Al Rasheed adds that this is just the start. He notes: “We are studying several other locations, and are planning to have three truck centres across the UAE by 2020, so let’s hope we get the spaces — that’s the most important thing.”

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