MAN TopUsed Shifts up a Gear

Often regarded as the poor cousins of new vehicle dealerships, used truck and bus dealers face quite a different set of challenges compared to their new commercial vehicle counterparts. German truck and bus manufacturer, MAN AG is intent on elevating the status of its TopUsed brand in Europe and in South Africa.

Geoff du Plessis, Executive Chairman of MAN Truck & Bus South Africa, headed up MAN TopUsed world-wide from 1010 to March this year prior to his return to home soil. “MAN has always recognised the importance of a proprietary used-vehicle division as a value driver in the sale of its new trucks and buses.

“As such, MAN TopUsed is an integral part of our value-chain. In a market where cost-predictability is becoming increasingly important for transport ope-rators, having a buy-back agreement signed with the supplier at the point of sale gives the customer peace of mind, and the supplier, a distinct competitive edge.”

According to Emir Solapgir, Head of MAN TopUsed in South Africa, “the role of the used truck and bus dealership is to buy and sell vehicles, as opposed to simply moving new product. This can present us with inventory obstacles, especially in South Africa where just 10 percent of stock is via buy-back, the rest coming from trade-ins. In Germany, it’s exactly the opposite with TopUsed dealers acquiring 90 percent of their stock via buy-back agreements with MAN.”

Solapgir moved to South Africa from Germany in January 2013 to give the South African TopUsed operation the strategic leadership that will enable both market expansion and reporting efficiency at MAN AG executive board level.

Having headed up Germany’s most successful TopUsed dealership in Ham-burg for two years prior to arriving in South Africa, Solapgir is set to change the fortunes of MAN TopUsed in this country.

“Our dealer network is expanding rapidly and by the end of 2013 will number six dealerships across six provinces. My South African team is really profes-sional and passionate about our growth strategy,” adds Solapgir.

The fact that Solapgir’s Hamburg TopUsed dealership was one of the most profitable MAN used-vehicle operations in Germany last year speaks volumes about his skill as a turnaround specialist, adept at striking the right pricing balance between MAN’s new vehicle sales operations and TopUsed.

“There is a natural competition between a new vehicle sales operation and its used vehicle counterpart. The secret is to set the correct pricing and buy-back values on new trucks and buses so that the profitability of the used dealership is not compromised when the vehicle is replaced,” he explains.

“MAN Truck & Bus SA has a Price Expert Panel that meets every three months to set mutually beneficial prices that are market-related and competitive.”

Integral to improving the performance of TopUsed is the positioning of the brand in the used commercial vehicle market, which is dominated by private (non OEM) dealerships.

“TopUsed is an extension of the MAN brand and customers can purchase with confidence knowing every vehicle has been checked and that the mileage on each vehicle is genuine. There is 100 percent transparency on the status of every TopUsed truck or bus. Furthermore, our sales personnel are fleet consultants, assisting customers, many of whom are start-up operations, in optimum vehicle selection and the sourcing of trailers,” he adds.

MAN TopUsed, as a wholly-owned subsidiary of MAN AG, has the buying power to stock an extensive range of vehicles, including derivatives from other manufacturers.

“Our customers come to us from all over southern Africa, many of them used truck dealers themselves. Having an extensive and diverse spread of product sets us apart from independent dealers as does the fact that buyers are able to have their vehicles serviced at any of MAN’s workshops in South Africa.

Moreover, the TopUsed vehicle-parc age is around four to five years old whereas the independent dealerships sell vehicles with an average age of ten years. Financing facilities via MAN Financial Services is another key market differentiator for TopUsed,” says Solapgir.

“The profitability of TopUsed is now a number-one priority in Germany and I’m confident TopUsed in South Africa can match what we achieved in Ham-burg as far as profitability is concerned. Our target for 2013 is set at 880 units, the bulk of these being 6x4 truck-tractors all with less than 600 000km on the clock.

“All told, we have a highly attractive offering for operators looking to buy qua-lity vehicles while keeping their capital outlay and insurance costs at a mini-mum. We have the products, the price flexibility, skilled personnel and full OEM support which undoubtedly will make us the preferred supplier of used trucks and buses in southern Africa,” Solapgir explains.

The expertise of both du Plessis and Solapgir in the used heavy commercial vehicle market provides MAN TopUsed SA with solid leadership, based on sound knowledge of the local market and of MAN AG’s long-term vision is for the division.

“The transport industry in the southern African region is growing rapidly and its demands are unpredictable. MAN TopUsed, with its wide product range is ideally positioned to service those markets where start-up private capital fleets are coming to the fore. Strong brand equity combined with a wide selection of premium-quality vehicles with low price tags, presents an attractive option for all entrepreneurial truck and bus fleet owners in our region,”