Daimler appoints bus boss

Mercedes-Benz Australia-Pacific’s bus business has a new general manager, appointed from Europe

Daimler appoints bus boss
Daimler appoints bus boss

By David Goeldner | October 19, 2011

Mercedes-Benz bus division in Australia has a new general manager, Jan Moreth, appointed from Europe with a remit to reinvigorate sales and forge closer ties with suppliers and operators.

Moreth says it’s a clear sign of commitment from parent company Daimler that it is serious about the Australian operation, even though by world standards the local output is low.

Daimler has a 17 percent global market share in bus sales at 43,000 units, and Moreth is aware that ‘at first sight’ Australia doesn’t seem to be very important.

"I think it’s a very positive sign to give me this assignment to stimulate the market, to form closer ties with existing customers, find new customers and see how we can get Mercedes-Benz going back on the success track," Moreth says.

"I believe it’s a clear sign of commitment to have a bus manager here from overseas."

High on Moreth’s list of priorities will be to meet with local Australian suppliers, principally body builders.

"I absolutely believe that to meet local requirements you need local partners," Moreth says.

"We will do what we can to be a good partner with the local body building industry, to see how we can forge alliances together and work together in the market."

Moreth is already aware of some of the tough challenges facing Australian-based suppliers.

"I think it’s a challenge for the local body builders – it’s a huge challenge with the strength of the Australian currency and with the cost that comes with it, it’s very difficult to stay competitive," he says.

"It’s a very tough challenge for the local body builders because, for example, in any North African country or any Asian country, the labour may be $2 an hour, whereas in Germany, Japan and Australia you count in tens of dollars."

Despite high labour costs, Daimler has still found a way to keep building buses at Mannheim in Germany, producing one of the world’s most successful low floor city buses – the Citaro.

"We are the only bus manufacturer that still manufactures in Germany, and the Citaro is one of the most successful products we’ve sold – 30,000 in the last ten years for city bus in Europe."

Moreth says there are no plans to bring the hugely successful Citaro to Australia.

"It’s a question of economies of scale and for the market size the Australian market would have to be three times of what it is to make it a viable exercise," he says.

With a mechanical engineering background and first-hand chassis building experience at Daimler’s Samano plant in Spain, Moreth believes he understands the challenges manufacturers in Australia face.

"I am a manufacturing guy by heart, so I really do understand the challenge and I’ve talked to Mark Burgess from Custom and others and I have listened to what they have told me – the need to be more efficient, reduce lead times, and look at material flow," Moreth says.

Moreth explains that there is a big difference between body builders that produce several hundred units in a year and a body builder that does less than 50.

"It’s a very tough fight for the smaller body builders," he says.

"When seeing what’s available on the body side I think there is a lot of technical expertise and experience here – so I’m not sure if our body expertise is really needed."

Moreth says Mercedes-Benz has no plans to rush in and make immediate changes based around his arrival.

"If we have to change things we will change them, but we are not going to change things for the sake of changing things – that’s not my philosophy," he says.

Nor it appears is it the philosophy of the arch-conservative Mercedes-Benz outfit in Australia who have stood accused by the industry of ‘dropping the ball’ and handing the chassis supply advantage to its competitors.

Moreth is aware of this scenario.

"I really believe what comes first is to improve relationships and improve service," he says.

"I will be a lot on the road because I need to meet customers, listen to their requirements and listen to what their day to day task is so we can better support them."

Moreth says more attention will be paid to the smaller enterprises, including school bus operators.

"I think at Mercedes we do have a tendency to focus on the big fleets and we need to make sure we don’t leave the smaller operators out," he says.

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