Analysis

Ford Trucks: a new force to reckon with in the GCC

Manufacturer is ready to compete with established rivals in the Gulf

PHOTO: Martin Penney (left) and Emrah Duman at a press briefing at PMV Live last year. Credit: Charls Thomas/MEConstructionNews.com

One of the most iconic names in the automotive world, the Ford brand instantly brings to mind vehicles like the F-150, which have cemented the company’s place in the global passenger car segment. 2014 saw the introduction of Ford Trucks into the Middle East, giving dominant players in the heavy commercial vehicle space a new name to contend with.

Equally owned by the Ford Motor Company and Turkish conglomerate Koc Holding, Turkey-based Ford Otosan made its debut at the PMV Live exhibition in Dubai that year, in conjunction with Ford’s UAE dealer Al Tayer Motors. The manufacturer showcased Ford Trucks’ offerings for the region, aiming for a slice of the country’s lucrative commercial vehicle market.

In 2015, Ford Trucks was back at PMV Live, with a bigger stand and a range of vehicles on display. Truck & Fleet ME sat down with senior executives to learn more about the manufacturer’s plans for the region as it aims to expand outside its Turkish stronghold.

The commercial vehicle segment is very different from the passenger car segment, says Martin Penney, general manager Ford and Lincoln Sales at Al Tayer Motors. Hiring experts in the truck market to run the business was a key part of venturing into the commercial vehicle space.

“It’s very difficult to convince customers, because these are business tools. They earn money or lose money, so the product reliability, the after-sales backup, parts – all get taken into consideration. If you have the right product and the right price, you’ve got an opportunity.”

Despite its newcomer status, Ford Trucks exceeded expectations in terms of performance in the first year of business in the UAE, he notes. A key contributor to this success was having an experienced team to sell the benefits of the trucks, as well as Al Tayer as a partner.

Commenting on Ford Trucks’ participation in The Big 5 and PMV Live, Emrah Duman, international markets director at Ford Trucks, admits the manufacturer did not have high hopes before participating in 2014. However, the positive response from customers in the construction industry convinced the brand to exhibit a second time.

“We find it valuable because we have two main targets. One of them is to improve our brand awareness in the industry. The second one is meeting with potential customers and fleets who are interested in our trucks.”

The trucks themselves are manufactured in Turkey by Ford Otosan, which exports vehicles and parts to 73 countries. The company, which began assembling trucks in 1959, has 500 of a total of 1,300 engineers at its R&D centre solely responsible for the global development of Ford heavy trucks.

In a bid to broaden its footprint outside Turkey, the company is actively trying to expand its presence in more European markets, where more established brands have historically ruled the roost, Penney says.

“Ford Otosan in Turkey have realised that they need to have a much bigger export market to offset peaks and troughs in various markets. You can never be reliant on one market. So they’re very much focused on export markets nowadays.”

The manufacturer is confident that its products can take on more dominant rivals, he adds. “It’s more competitively priced at the moment because it’s a challenger brand. We’re new in the market, so we have to offer something slightly better than those that have got a history in the market.”

“And we’ve done that successfully. With the support of Ford Otosan, we’ve already got some key customers, which will be repeat purchases, so providing we back up the after-sales service, there’s no reason now for them to leave us.”

At the show, Ford Trucks and Al Tayer showcased a range of 2016 model year vehicles, including an 1843 T tractor, a 3535M 6×4 chassis mixer and a 4135M 8×4 chassis mixer. Each of the models can be customised with transmission and cabin modules for on-road and off-road conditions.

Tractors and construction vehicles from the Ford Trucks range are offered with a 10mm 500 Mpa chassis frame. The mixer series for construction applications are offered in 6×4 and 8×4 configurations, with a 3545hp engine and a mixer capacity ranging between 7.7m3 and 12.7m3.

“Since the construction sector is booming in the region, the top sellers will be our mixers and our tippers in the region. We’re also showcasing the tractor head, which will also be a bestseller in the market,” Duman says.

The construction and logistics segments will be the priority for the company going forward. While it may seem daunting to compete with brands that have been around for decades in the UAE market, the challenge for the most part is convincing the first few customers.

“Delivering the first vehicle is always difficult. But once you deliver the first vehicle, the results follow. It becomes easier for other potential customers to make a decision once they see a couple of companies using it.”

For the GCC region, vehicles were developed taking into account feedback from local customers. Road tests were carried out on trucks for over two years, covering 300,000km.

Ford Trucks for the Gulf region come equipped with a hot climate package, which offers increased air conditioner performance as well as an improved radiator and filtration. The package is offered across the entire product line-up for GCC countries. In addition, lubricants used on the transmission and engines are also more suited to high temperatures.

In what it claims is a market first, Ford Trucks is also offering a three-year unlimited mileage warranty for UAE customers. The brand also offers a fleet management system, currently sold in other markets, and is considering bringing it to the Emirates, Duman says.

“We first need to find a partner in the industry to support us. Some customers have started asking for fleet management here, so we have to investigate that. It’s not available for the region right now, but we have that whole infrastructure ready.”

Looking ahead, Ford Trucks will focus on solidifying its presence in the Middle East in the years to come. Following the launch of new facilities in the UAE and Saudi Arabia, the manufacturer plans to expand its sales and service network into Oman, Qatar, Bahrain and Iraq.

In the UAE, the company is aiming for a 10% market share in the mid-term, Duman says. “We would have been talking differently if the oil prices were increasing a bit. But still, within the current circumstances, there will still be growth, especially in the UAE, due to the fact that construction is going on and trade is going on.”

Apart from Middle East growth, Ford Trucks is also eyeing North Africa and already has a presence in Algeria and Morocco. “Those are the top markets in Africa. Next year we will start in Tunisia and Egypt as well. When things settle down, we will consider.”

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