Page 1





VDL Bus & Coach is one of South Africa’s premier chassis production companies. Jane Bordenave talks to Managing Director Sam Mansingh about the importance of customer and supplier relationships for the firm.



DL Bus and Coach was founded in February 2008 and began producing bus and coach chassis in August the same year. It supplies vehicle bodies to the commuter and intercity travel industries. The organisation is part of the VDL Groep, an Eindhoven based international industrial company, and came into being due to a sudden gap in the South African market, as MD Sam Mansingh explains, “Prior to our creation, VDL in the Netherlands used international importer Tyco Trucks to bring its products to the South African market. When they decided to leave the country, the Dutch office had to think about how to proceed. In the end, the choice was made to establish our own office in Meyersdal and continue operations ourselves.�

We consider our customers to be our friends, as well as business partners, and keep a tight bond with them The company makes two types of vehicle chassis, commuter and semi-lux. Around 85% of its output is commuter busses – these carry between 60 and 70 passengers and are used on municipal bus routes. The remaining 15% are semi-lux coaches, which seat up to 75 people at a time and are supplied in the most part to the intercity travel industry with a smaller number going to tour operators. While all the chassis components are delivered by VDL Groep in the Netherlands, the company has a strong local supply chain, which provides batteries, tyres and oils. One of the most important requirements the organisation places on its suppliers is that they are registered Black Economic


Empowerment (BEE) enterprises, “we are committed to using local suppliers, but a BEE certification is a must,” says Mr Mansingh, “in addition to that we also look for manufacturers that have experience supplying to the bus and coach industry. At the end of the day, you don’t want to start a relationship with someone who ticks the local and BEE boxes, but leaves you high and dry when you need the parts. So the ability to deliver is, of course, a top priority.” All of the VDL Bus & Coach’s clients are private businesses, although the two divisions operate in different ways. Organisations that buy the semi-lux chassis operate their own routes or tours on what could be considered a traditional private basis, deciding their own routes, prices and schedules. On the other hand, those who buy the commuter bus chassis, which make up the bulk of the

company’s clients. These customers operate municipal bus routes that are determined and subsidised by the local government. Regardless of which category the client falls into, the importance of building relationships is difficult to overestimate, explains Mr Mansingh, “in South Africa, we have a small market and we all know each other, so a lot of business is done on the basis of the kind of relationship you have with your customers. We consider our customers to be our friends, as well as business partners, and keep a tight bond with them.” One of the ways the firm maintains this relationship is through its after sales department, “we have a dedicated after sales department that looks after the client once we have delivered the product to them,” he says, “they look after anything regarding the aftermarket, which can be the standard services such as queries, complaints and maintenance, but also includes driver training and technological training on and ongoing basis.” The company has recently made a major investment in its South African operations by building its own assembly plant, which was completed in Spring this year, “we identified

Teamwork is very, very important and providing training for the people who work here is an investment in this ethos





Marcopolo South Africa (Pty) Ltd. Nº 2 Barlow Road - Industrial West - Germiston - P. O. Box 1157 Germiston - 1400 - South Africa Tel: +27 11 418-0800 - Fax: +27 11 873-7355

a significant economic advantage that would APROXIMANDO PESSOAS BRINGINGabout PEOPLE TOGETHER - APROXIMANDOassembly PERSONAS be brought be bringing in house,” says Mr Mansingh, “Until this point we had been outsourcing this part of our operation, but it became clear that due to BRINGING PEOPLE TOGETHER - APROXIMANDO PERSONAS economies of scale it would be better to put together the chassis components ourselves.” It has also begun investment in new fuel technologies, such as compressed natural gas (CNG), biofuels and hydrogen fuel sales, “we are getting increasing requests from our clients for this kind of technology and it is something we are taking very seriously. By liaising with head office in the Netherlands, we are hoping to be able to provide these facilities to our customers in the near future.” VDL Bus & Coach also believes in using inward investment to train its employees, ensuring that they have the most comprehensive and up to date skills sets possible. At a local level, staff are sent on day or two day training courses for skills development in the areas such as computer

training and SAP software training. In addition, personnel are from time to time sent to head office in the Netherlands to receive information and training regarding new products or upgrades, “we have a very strong team and it is one of the things that sets us apart from our competitors. Teamwork is very, very important and providing training for the people who work here is an investment in this ethos.” When looking to the future, Mr Mansingh predicts a definite increase in sales figures. Additionally, there are plans on the table to move north into the rest of Africa and start trading in neighbouring countries. But what the company’s future really rests on, he says, is maintaining a good relationship with its customers, “by just being and living with our clients, we can get to where we want to be. You have to remember that your customer is king and you have to be close to them. If you do that, you will definitely succeed, and that is what we intend to do.” END


South Africa Magazine, Suite 9 and 10, The Royal, Bank Plain, Norwich, Norfolk, UK. NR2 4SF TNT Magazine, 14-15 Child’s Place, Earl’s Court, London, UK. SW5 9RX ENQUIRIES Telephone: 0044 (0)1603 343267 Fax: 0044 (0)1603 283602 SUBSCRIPTIONS Call: 00441603 283573

65 Philip Engelbrecht Street Building 3, Meyersdal Office Park 1448 Meyersdal South Africa Tel: +27 (0)11 867 4421 Fax: +27 (0)11 867 4528


SA Mag - Issue 5 - vdl FEATURE