More skin in the game

23 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineSeptember 24, 2017

Ask any coach and they‘ll tell you having a strong squad with talent right across the park makes picking the winning team on game day so much easier. In a similar vein, Fuso New Zealand are poised to add playing depth to their numbers.

Daimler‘s restructuring of the import and wholesale business for Fuso trucks in New Zealand last year was never about wanting to maintain a steady as he goes philosophy. The fact they selected a local family owned business whose expertise traditionally lay in the dealer end of the supply chain, heralded their belief a fresh new approach was needed.

…To recap

Fuso New Zealand Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary of parent Keith Andrews Holdings Ltd, kicked off in September 2016 with Kurtis Andrews appointed managing director. Fuso New Zealand took over from Mitsubishi Motors Corporation as the importer and wholesale distributor for Fuso trucks in New Zealand.

A crisp and immaculate new facility was opened at 8 Landing Drive, Mangere, comprising an administration centre, parts warehouse with a 10,000 SKU capacity, and a 70,000 square metre concrete holding yard for stock.

In the wake of last year‘s upheaval, the Fuso brand suffered an expected dip in sales; however in the first sixth months of 2017 they‘re up 114.5% on the same time last year, selling 502 units (472 truck/30 bus), placing them second on the overall sales rankings for commercial vehicles in the over 4501kg bracket.

What‘s next

Given the opportunity to set up the import and wholesale business, the market has eagerly waited to see what the Fuso New Zealand game plan was. Where would the new entity take the brand next? A tough decision to make, but that‘s exactly where the answer lay – tough!

The company have been doing significant due diligence on a complementary range in the Fuso arsenal pitched at the vocational, metro and short haul sectors, particularly in businesses where the truck is a key enabler of the core business without being the core business itself. Good examples would be scaffolders, tip work, concrete mixers, site tippers, VSR distribution reps and the like. The new range will be sourced ex-Daimler‘s Chennai plant in India, and will offer buyers an easily maintained truck that‘s well appointed and very robust.

Having seen the new line-up there‘s no doubt it will certainly slot right into the local Fuso range without looking the least bit out of place, but there‘s enough difference in the specification to make it complementary and not compete for the same slice of pie.

But before we look at what‘s on offer, let‘s look at Daimler‘s operation in India.

Daimler India Commercial Vehicles (DICV)

Located near the city of Chennai, capital of the Tamil Nadu province on India‘s lower eastern coast, DCIV‘s 162ha Oragadam facility is impressive and pristine.

The head office for DICV, the Oragadam operation not only manufactures trucks and buses for domestic and export markets, it is also home to an extensive testing facility, research and development work, and post manufacture body fit-up and customisation.

The sprawling DICV plant in Oragadam.

Adminstration offices 

DICV, solar panels on the test track infield.

Although not running at full capacity yet, DICV Oragadam  has the capacity to produce 72,000 trucks and 4,000 buses per annum, depending on shift patterns.

Since it‘s inauguration in 2012 the facility has manufactured and sold 50,000 trucks locally and exported a further 10,000 to more than 30 countries in Asia, the Middle East, Africa and South America. It has manufactured export vehicles under the Fuso brand since 2013 and there‘s certainly plans to expand the export business into other regions.

Parts are also a big business at DICV, with more than 50 million exported across four continents since 2013, and last year the first vehicles in kitted CKD format left for Kenya and South Africa.

DICV is a wholly owned subsidiary of Daimler AG, Stuttgart Germany, and is the only Daimler plant in the world manufacturing product under three brands, Mercedes-Benz, Fuso, and the local variant Bharat Benz (Bharat is the Hindi name for ‘India‘).

Manufacturing standards, quality and finish are as one would expect to find in any Daimler facility with the company‘s lean manufacturing programme (TOS – Truck Operating System), multiple in-production inspection gates, and integrated online technician training all present. Every vehicle produced is track tested on a state-of-the-art test track facility located immediately behind the factory.

The Oragadam plant runs on 70% renewable energy, and all runoff water is captured, treated, and reused where possible. Harmful wastes are handled at an onsite treatment plant. Employees can further their education in-house and the progression of internal staff is preferred over hiring in outside ‘talent‘. The company has 42 employees who have graduated through its higher education programmes.

Working conditions in the plant are first rate and immaculately clean. There‘s no denying the cost of labour in India is low by western standards, but relative to the local economy the staff are well remunerated with other benefits, including onsite medical facilities and transport to and from work. Shift hours and annual leave are on a par with what we would consider acceptable.

The DICV plant is typical Daimler, perfectly clean and runs like a ‘well-oiled‘ machine, driven by process and quality. Conditions for staff are first rate…it‘s only the ambient temperature (regardless of where you are in the country) that‘s a bit freaky.

A rising tide

There‘s no question India is the next big target in terms of global economic activity. With a population of 1.3 billion and ranked around 141st on the nominal GDP per capita, the commercial potential contained within its borders is staggering.

India, however, is a very different proposition to say China, where a higher level of control and restriction on autonomous foreign investment exists in many industries.

The current annual new truck market in India is around 200,000, although as the giant economic engine picks up pace, that figure will likely take off. One look at the state of the average truck on India‘s roads and you realise this is a country not well served by its traditional suppliers.

Although this is not Daimler‘s first foray into the sub-continent (they produced a truck in cooperation with Tata in 1954), their rearrival in 2009 heralded a new era in Indian road transport, and a clear intention on Daimler‘s part. DICV CEO Erich Nesselhauf has been in India for nine years and was there when the first sod was turned at the Oragadam site in 2009.

He had this to say at a media conference in Chennai recently:

“With DICV and our Bharat Benz brand we aim at nothing less than to revolutionise the Indian commercial vehicle market. We are well on track to do so. India was traditionally a dumping ground for old products. You could be sure it was two generations or more behind, but for this courtesy you paid a premium price. We will never do this.”

Think back to Henry Ford: the auto industry has always been adept at improving the circumstances of a community and as a result its consumption. DICV have very clear intentions on their role in India‘s future prosperity; being a key player in the creation of the rising tide that will in turn lift all boats.

Trucks for purpose

Walk down the DICV production line and you won‘t find a new Actros 2663 GigaSpace about to roll off (although you will find an Actros being built for export). That‘s not what this place is about. Trucks made here are about assisting a country and its operators to be viable on a roading infrastructure that‘s the best part of century behind the modern world.

Even the banked corners on the 1.5km oval test track are no smooth ride and the 1.16km inner circuit includes a bump and pothole track, with some of the indentations measuring 350mm in depth. Test drivers do an hour at a time on the inner track at a maximum speed of 30km/h and then have an hour off before moving on to oval track work. In addition, there‘s an ultra-rough test track with bumps and undulations that have to be experienced to fully appreciate.

Couple with all this with the general Indian rule of thumb where GVM means what you can put on the thing, and you start to get a picture of how these trucks are built. The traditional export markets DICV serve further indicate the product‘s pitch, namely Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

These trucks are no-nonsense and hardy. There‘s a ‘but‘ though, and it‘s a big but. They‘re by no means unrefined.

As Nesselhauf was at pains to convey, these trucks will fit comfortably into any modern western fleet. We sampled each of the cab styles that will be heading for New Zealand and came away with few, if any, complaints. In fact the ride in the unladen 6×4 Fuso FZ tractor was incredibly smooth and comfortable, and the internal environment was one where many a day could be happily spent – especially if the truck‘s role in the business was the means, and not the end.

It‘s for this reason that the trucks produced in DICV have a much broader potential than countries in need of a lift, and that‘s why Fuso New Zealand believe they‘ll work here. And it‘s not just the in-cab refinement.

DICV produce a range of ready-to-work trucks in the tipper, mixer, and tractor unit applications. The success of ready-to-work trucks is nothing new to dealer teams nowadays, and at a time when local build space slots are rarer than a soccer ball on Eden Park, the ability to get a competitively priced Fuso ready for some very hard work ‘now‘ has all the appeal of a guaranteed All Black World Cup three-peat.

The FI or Canter on roids! A 12 tonne Canter/Fighter cross-over on 22.5” wheels has huge appeal in all sorts of applications. Seen here on the DICV test track in 13 tonne GVM ready-to-work tipper mode.

The FZ in 6×4 trim won‘t make the journey to New Zealand but may well be seen in ready-to-work 4×2 tractor spec.

What‘s coming

Nine right-hand drive models are available in the New Zealand portfolio, with some creating almost a new niche in the market. They fall into two platform categories. In the lighter duty range there‘s the 9.6 tonne GVM Canter dubbed the 914R, and a bigger brother on 22.5‘ wheels, the 12 tonne GVM FI 1217R. It has a sibling that‘s a 13 tonne GVM ready-to-work tipper, the FI 1217C.


Top left and middle: Based on the Axor platform the interior of the F Series is refined yet easy care. Right: the 914 / FI interior is ideal for metro distribution or applications where mud and crap that‘s dragged into the internal environment can be evicted easily.


Left: LED day running lights on the FJ / FZ. Steps on the F series cab. Right: Everything about these trucks is easy care and serviceable.

Nomenclature designates GVM and horsepower with R and C indicating Rigid and Construction respectively. The engine in all three is the 3.9-litre Euro 5 Fuso 4D37, with 6-speed manual transmission, mechanical suspensions and full air braking.

As we intimated above, a 12 tonne Canter on 22.5” rims is somewhat of a trailblazer. The FI is essentially a Canter cab on a Fighter chassis and that‘s the reason for the big feet. It‘s an interesting proposition that‘s not without appeal in many applications, even on grounds of fleet uniformity.

In the heavier bracket the base platform is the Mercedes- Benz Axor. There are six options beginning with the 16 tonne GVM 4×2 FJ 1628R, the 25 tonne GVM FJ 2528R and C, in both 6×2 and 6×4 trim, the 31 tonne GVM 8×4 FO 3128C and M (for Mining), and lastly, a 40 tonne GCM 4×2 tractor, the FZ 4028T. All trucks in the range sport the same 210kW 6.374-litre Mercedes 6S20 engine and G131 9-speed transmission.

Suspensions are mechanical and brakes full air. The Mining variant of the FO 3128 comes with hub reduction. The key to the range‘s success locally will lay with the sales teams around the country understanding what it is they have on offer and who the customer is.

“Take the FJ 1628R,” said Kurtis Andrews, MD of Fuso NZ. “Initially you might think ‘why offer this truck when Fuso do a 280hp Fighter?‘ But the FJ develops 1120Nm of torque, against the Fighter‘s 800Nm, making it potentially appealing to short haul work where a trailer may be required. These are not the trucks you‘d send from Auckland to Wellington, there‘s premium Fuso models for that, but for distribution and vocational work they represent a fantastic value proposition.”

Driving the trucks in a test environment, it‘s difficult to get a good feel for power. Output in some of the models is modest by our standards, but for work in many applications it‘s ample and often ideal. The G131 gearbox is a Mercedes-Benz unit using the ‘bump‘ it through the horizontal gate system to change the range. It‘s a system that‘s been around forever now, and it‘s fine, but still a cumbersome way to skin the cat so to speak.

Launch for the new range in New Zealand is targeted for February next year and currently there‘s a number of units on field trials in various locations around the country. Regardless of DICV‘s in-house and global evaluation programmes there‘s no substitute for making sure all‘s well on New Zealand‘s unique playing field. After all, there‘s a lot at stake…

The key to their success will be the sales teams, ensuring they sell like hot cakes into applications they are built for, and kept away from applications they‘re not built for, regardless of the price appeal.


A new range of Fuso trucks intelligently aimed at a specific market. Fuso New Zealand have done, and continue to do, significant background work ensuring the fit is just right and the new trucks build on the work done over the past four decades that today sees the product in the top two in the over 4501kg GVM commercial vehicle sales data.

We think the line-up has the potential to do very well. Ready-to-work trucks hold huge appeal to those not wanting to immerse themselves in the world of regulation and VDAM nuances, and who just want a great value truck that‘s fit for purpose, with a sound warranty and a worthwhile residual value. They have no aspirations beyond the vehicle‘s utility value, so give them a workhorse at a great price that‘s free of headaches for five years and they‘ll have no reason to go anywhere else at replacement time.

The vehicles lend themselves as much to civil site work in tipper format (offering more flexibility than maybe an articulated dump truck), as they do to concrete mixer, stock pick up and bobby calf work, vehicle delivery, and tow truck work. Any application where a truck must not only last, but be easily cared for.

The fact they‘re made in India is totally irrelevant. If you think any of your clothes and commodities are made in the country of brand origin in the modern era, you‘re naive at best.

What‘s coming is simply a new range of Fuso trucks, targeted at a specific market identified by Fuso New Zealand and its dealers. And like any top team blooding new players, it‘ll be a fascinating watch as they‘re assimilated into the mix and we see where they find their happy homes.