Feb 2020 Cover Story – In Conversation with Mourad Hedna, UD Trucks Middle East President
UD Trucks overall growth and optimism epitomizes the Gemba spirit in which UD Trucks operate by as shown in their growth of sales in the MEENA region.
The launch of the new, heavy-duty Quester, a series of major fleet deals and the announcement of a new retail partner in Saudi Arabia were among the highlights of 2019 as UD Trucks enjoyed another positive year across the Middle East, East and North Africa (MEENA) region.
Against the backdrop of extremely challenging economic conditions, the Japanese commercial vehicle brand that belongs to the Volvo Group recorded sales increases in a number of key markets, in particular the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Oman.
We caught up with Mourad Hedna, UD Trucks Middle East President, who gave us an insight as to why UD Trucks continues to show success of growth and what makes them stand out.
There is no doubt that 2019 was a challenging year for the Middle East truck market, with most countries registering a decrease in total sales. Nevertheless, thanks greatly to the hard work of our local partners and our highly professional staff, the brand recorded strong performances in many of our major markets. For example, UD Trucks sales either increased or remained stable in the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Oman and Qatar. Fleet deals played a key role in these positive results, and we signed a significant number of major contracts, for example with UAE-based waste management company Lavajet and Oriental Trading Co in Qatar, who took delivery of 118 Questers and Croners and 25 Quester and Croner models respectively. And with Kuwait Municipality, who signed a deal for 106 Quester and Croner models for waste management use.
We have a lot to get excited about in 2020, both within the Middle East region and further afield in other markets also covered from our Dubai head office. Our primary focus for the year will be Saudi Arabia, where we will be looking to build on our new partnership with Zahid Tractor. At the same time, we will continue to enhance our presence and appeal in all our other markets, in close cooperation with our regional partners.
Of particular importance to us this year will be the East Africa market. Over recent years we have reactivated UD Trucks’ presence in several markets across this region, and this expansion will continue in 2020, most notably in Kenya, with the launch of a new product range and a new KD facility which is starting next month in partnership with CMC Motors, part of Al Futtaim group.
The Middle East and Africa region will remain a challenging environment in which to do business, due to the market environment uncertainty in some specific areas. However, we remain very optimistic regarding the brand potential.
We will continue our focus on the strategic growth in existing and new markets in a consistent way. Specifically, from our perspective, our focus will be on optimizing our performance, and that of our local partners, to ensure that we lead the way by offering the absolute best combination of products and customer service.
Saudi Arabia Market
We have important plans for Saudi Arabia in 2020 as we look forward to working closely with our existing customers and attracting a host of new customers to the brand. 2019 was very much a transitional year for us in the Kingdom, following the mutual agreement with Rolaco Group to terminate our collaboration. Our new exclusive importer and distributor, Zahid Tractor, shares the same commitment to delivering the highest standards of sales and aftersales support to customers, so I have no doubt we will see very positive progress for the brand,
We have already received very positive feedback from customers and the market, which is reflected by a strong order book, and everyone is looking forward to seeing UD Trucks take its place as a major player in Saudi Arabia in 2020. Moreover, teaming up with Zahid Tractor has allowed us to increase our network coverage from three service locations and six parts locations to six 3S facilities, two 2S facilities and around 35 parts outlets.
New Quester was developed with the Middle East in mind, so it is no surprise that it is already proving popular with businesses across the region. This is evidenced by a noticeable trend last year of companies entering into major fleet deals with UD Trucks, where the primary driver was New Quester. Certainly, since the introduction of New Quester and the 40 Ton and 8×4 12 CBM, we have been able to penetrate new segments that were previously dominated by European manufacturers. Particularly noteworthy is the extremely positive feedback we have received from customers regarding the new automated transmission ESCOT.
Technology and Innovation
The key for us is to develop trucks that allow our customers to address the most important industry challenges they face today and help them to stay ahead of the competition. And from a Middle East perspective, this means tackling the real issues they face on the ground in this region. So dependability and reliability fuel efficiency, productivity, connectivity, and supporting and developing drivers are top priorities for fleets and transport companies here.
This is why both the New Quester and the Croner were specifically engineered for tough markets like Middle East market. In the case of the New Quester, this heavy-duty truck introduces a range of enhancements to help customers across the region to boost their bottom line, including key features such as ESCOT automated manual transmission, engines with higher horsepower, comfortable cab and user-friendly UD Telematics to deliver greater fuel efficiency, productivity, driver efficiency, safety and uptime.
The most valuable asset any company possesses is its human capital. It is essential that we have motivated, engaged and inspired employees to be able to outperform. This is a primary focus for me, so I look to involve and engage every employee so that they can see the bigger picture, whilst also sharing how and why we will work together to implement our plans in the region. Encouraging creativity, entrepreneurship, agility and diversity helps to further enhance this engagement, and consequently the team’s performance.
Everything we do must be steered toward customers’ needs and support. Promoting customer interest in any initiative or decision we take helps to promote clarity.
Promoting a truly collaborative spirit among the UD team and our local partners, based on mutual trust, is another key driver for success. Without our partners’ engagement and professionalism, we cannot provide the required high levels of service to our customers.
Finally, I think it is important to foster an atmosphere within the workplace that encourages employees to enjoy their time and have fun by celebrating small and big achievements.
Our focus always has been, and always will be, the satisfaction of our customers, because this is the only guarantee of sustainable growth. This is the reason that we have invested in having a strong presence on the ground in the region, courtesy of our UAE-based regional head office and parts distribution centre, all of which ensures that we are closer to our customers.
We are continually listening to feedback from our customers across the region, so that we can develop tailored solutions to address their challenges, while simultaneously sharing best practice with all markets to ensure they are getting the very best out of their trucks. A key driver for our efforts in this field is what we call Quality Customer Pulse – a weekly meeting held at our regional head office, where we bring together the various teams to discuss the customer’s issues and feedback, and look at solutions to help them maximise their business’ potential.
UD Trucks Partners
Absolutely. Having strong partners in each market is essential to our success, so we believe it is a real endorsement of how we are doing that so many of these partners reconfirmed UD Trucks as their brand of choice, over the course of last year. This clearly highlights their pride in working with us, as well as the close team spirit that is evident among all parties based on the “Trust, Support, & Challenge”. An example of this close collaboration, and our commitment to our partners, were two regional conferences that were held in the second half of last year – a bodybuilders conference and the annual partners conference.
Safety and Training
Driver safety and training is integral to our customer service offering. While our products are very much designed with the safety of their occupants, and other road users and pedestrians in mind, from our regional offices we are focused on enhancing the drive user experience. From Dubai we run an advanced Competence Development Centre offering a full suite of Driver Training courses that cover both product specific modules, road safety sessions and other driver related topics. In addition, UD Trucks offers a plethora of online content in the form of video and audio to ensure the competence and confidence of drivers when it comes to daily inspection and safety features. As an example, UD Trucks donated three heavy duty trucks to a driving school in Ethiopia, as part of a joint initiative by UD Trucks and the Volvo Group, with a key focus on reducing the number of road accidents.