Eicher, the Indian-based truck maker in the global Volvo Group, launched the Eicher 6000 Series range of heavy trucks last week.
The 6016 model is a 16-tonne GVM freight-carrier, while the 6025 model is a 25-tonne GVM construction tipper, fitted with 5-litre and 7.7-litre Volvo Group engines respectively. The former 6016 model has a six-speed manual gearbox, while the latter 6025 uses a 9-speed ZF manual transmission.
The company is bullish about the Eicher 6000 Series and its future in South and sub-Saharan Africa, despite a slow start in sales.
Eicher was launched as a new truck brand in SA at TruckX 2017 at Kyalami last July and since then it has sold 83 trucks – 32 Eicher 3008 4-tonne MCVs in 2017, and 42 Eicher MCVs and nine Eicher 6000 Series HCVs in the first seven months of 2018.
The SA sales target for the company’s current financial year, which ends on March 31, 2019, is 300 trucks.
Eicher sales director, Mark Diab, admitted at a media briefing in Centurion last week that sales initially had been slow but have been steadily ramping up. The Pro 6000 range should further boost Eicher trucks brand sales in South Africa.
He added that the past 12 months had been spent productively in setting up the dealer network as well as training dealer and head-office staff, so that customers would have a positive experience when buying and servicing an Eicher 6000 Series truck.
Diab added that 108 technical staff had been trained already, while parts availability from its central warehouse in Jet Park had reached 96%, with 2 600 product lines in stock.
Volvo Eicher Commercial Vehicles (VECV) now has 17 touch points (15 sales, service and spares dealers and two more service only outlets) in South Africa, catering for the major centres and main trucking routes. Most of the dealerships belong to established groups like CMH, BB, AAD, Imperial, Ermelo TTC, Morgan, Billson Trucks, Shorts and Premier.
Surender Singh, vice president and country head of VECV South Africa, said that there was also a lot of focus on selling Eicher trucks in Africa, particularly sub-Saharan Africa.
Already a market has been established in Zimbabwe, with 57 trucks shipped to that country. Eicher trucks are currently sold in 13 African countries and more than 30 countries worldwide, and have aggressive plans to expand globally.
Eicher is exploring the commuter bus segment to expand the range, with the option to build bus bodies locally, instead of importing fully built units from the plant.
Eicher trucks will also be assembled locally from SKD kits sourced from India. A team is currently evaluating various options and an announcement in this regard should be made before the end of the year.
Eicher has made huge steps forward since forming its joint venture with the Volvo Group in 2008 and global sales in the last financial year amounted to 65 932 units, with a target of selling 100 000 units in 2020. There are an estimated 500 000 Eicher trucks and buses operating worldwide.
Eicher has been in the truck business for more than three decades and its current range of trucks are developed using Volvo Group engines.
Mr Singh says research in South Africa has shown that the Eicher brand is positioned slightly below the Japanese brands (Hino, Isuzu and Fuso), but above lower priced Tata and FAW models, so the objective is to provide a less expensive, value for money yet reliable option for operators moving up from the “budget brands”.
“We are very serious about our operation in South Africa. We have invested in South Africa through a 100% owned subsidiary and not an independent distributor and realise we have one chance to make a success of our South African venture.
“We can’t afford to mess up,” concluded Singh.