Dean Dal Santo was fresh out of university when he started as a commercial analyst at Scania Australia. He has gone on to hold a number of senior roles in the organisation and has been the Truck Sales Director since 2018.
PM: What factors does the local Heavy Duty truck market want?
DDS: From our perspective fuel economy and total operating economy is definitely becoming paramount and in that area we are doing quite well in relation to our direct competitors. Safety is also a big factor and the influence of the Chain of Responsibility legislation is important to Scania. In the past we might have been paid a premium for many of our safety features but now there is an expectation they are to be included as standard equipment. A lot of the major fleets are increasingly interested in sustainability and, more so in relation to our future product platform, we’re providing regular updates in terms of what our company direction is, and what technologies and products we are looking at investing in.
PM: Do you see alternative fuels on the short-term agenda?
DDS: We supply to the demand and we currently offer a number of fuel solutions. We’ve had biodiesel, gas and ethanol in place for many years, but these options have never really taken off in Australia and the government isn’t offering any real incentives at this point in time to go down the alternative fuel route. There is no doubt electrification is high on the agenda and we are currently receiving interest in electric vehicles for both truck and bus.
PM: Scania was one of the first to offer service contracts in Australia. How has that changed the approach to the market?
DDS: We’ve done a lot of work within our Scania organisation and we’re not just selling the ‘metal’, we’re selling a solution with a focus on total operating economy, and that can extend to value-added products including repair and maintenance agreements, driver support services, finance packages, our used truck and rental division.
PM: How has Scania maintained its market share, albeit in a pandemic affected smaller Australian market?
DDS: Stating the obvious, 2020 was probably the most challenging year for most companies globally and the reason we were down on numbers in Australia was purely due to supply. Our factory went offline for about eight weeks. Our order books here stayed fairly strong and coming into this year orders were the second highest recorded for Scania Australia. Deliveries didn’t necessarily portray the success we were having from a demand point of view and in the circumstances, we have to expect that. At the beginning of 2020 we were on track and providing we don’t go through what we saw last year with production and COVID issues, our goal is to be ten per cent or more of the local heavy duty market.
PM: The 770hp Scania was released in Europe late in 2020. Do you see much of a demand for that rating when it arrives here later this year?
DDS: There will be a place for the 770 when launched on the Australian market. We’re starting to break into some real heavy haulage applications such as in mining, and to some buyers the 770 will also present as a ‘hero of the road’ and we’re quite proud they’re the highest horsepower trucks with the most torque. We have really good sellers in the V8 range particularly for B-double and A-double applications in the 580-650hp ratings.
PM: Was it a bold decision to become the only heavy-duty truck offering side curtain rollover protection airbags?
DDS: It does differentiate our product particularly when we are tendering and some clients now include them in the tender documents as a requirement. We have standardised it across the entire Scania range, from our smaller trucks right up to our crew cabs.
PM: Not every truck hauls freight or bulk and Scania is well known for producing fire-fighting appliances. Is that more than a niche market for Scania?
DDS: One of our focus applications is the fire business and our product has evolved over many years up through the launch of the New Truck Generation and our new crew cab range. We have around 750 vehicles in service around the country and, pardon the pun, we’re pumping out good volumes per year and continue to be the market leader in heavy pumpers. If I am speaking with someone who doesn’t know a lot about the trucking industry, I say ‘next time you’re in the city and see a fire truck, chances are it’s one of ours’.
PM: What is Scania’s strategy with its business model in relation to service contracts?
DDS: Uptime is extremely important to our customers and we have developed a range of offers to support this over recent years, aimed at the retail market including a five year/500,000-kilometre service plan that has been very successful in the market.
Under the inclusive maintenance programme getting the customer back to Scania workshops is a good opportunity to give them a flavour about how it all works. Our objectives are to increase the share of vehicles coming back to our own workshops and work at continuing to retain those customers to be in a position to sell them new vehicles and services when they require them. We’ve now expanded to offer an inclusive two-year repair and maintenance contract as an option so the customer can choose either a two-year R&M or five years servicing. We also get existing customers who take up these offers.
PM: Is it a major challenge to provide a national standard of service across a big country like Australia?
DDS: It isn’t due to our company owned network. I think that’s one of our strengths: the fact that we own all of our major dealers in the capital cities and we’ve also got support from regional service agents. We’re all one company and it works well and it’s an advantage to our customers for us to provide consistent national service with fixed pricing and Scania trained technicians and we can replicate that throughout the whole country. We’re expanding too. We’ve got a new branch opening up in Sydney midyear and we are currently looking at some others. We are definitely going to continue with the captive dealer strategy.