One-to-One with Thomas Hemmerich (MD, MAN Truck & Bus UK)

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17.09.18 - Swindon, UK. Thomas Hemmerich, MAN Truck & Bus. Photo: Professional Images/@ProfImages

“In good times, it is easy to be best buddies” 

It was unfortunate for MAN Truck & Bus that immediately after the global premiere of its new Truck Generation (TG) series in Bilbao, Spain, Europe and the rest of the world went into lockdown due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. Suddenly all of MAN’s extensive launch events were cancelled. This included the Commercial Vehicle Show 2020 in Birmingham, a customer ride and drive at the Millbrook Proving Grounds, and in September the world’s largest commercial vehicle event the biennial IAA CV Show in Hannover.

With this in mind how will MAN bring their new truck range to their customers?

We have already moved to implement Plan B, in that MAN through its dealer network will soon begin a series of smaller TG Road Show events. This brings with it a positive in that these smaller ‘local events’ often bring the company closer to their current and future customers.

Are the MAN dealers coping well with the current working conditions?

At an early stage all MAN dealers altered work practices by separating shifts, and cleaning the premises between shift changes. They also ensured that shift workers did not mingle even in locker rooms. This has to date been highly successful with no staff testing positive. These measures have allowed MAN to maintain a full suite of services to the customers which is key to support the industry in order to keep the country going.

We also realised at an early stage that the supply of parts and components could be an issue and we took immediate steps to address that. These steps taken mean that the dealer network had no difficulties and have now begun to reduce orders as they were becoming overstocked.

How is MAN Finance working with Operators and Dealers?

The company, as with most finance houses immediately received a Tsunami of requests for payment holidays. This has been one of the biggest challenges. We are aware and sympathetic to the difficulties and are working closely with operators to agree individual solutions. This as an opportunity to bring customers closer. In good times it is easy to be best buddies, but in tough times it is crucial to standby each other and help each other. So far we have satisfied by far the majority of requests.

When will the production plants return to full capacity?

MAN’s production facilities began a gradual and controlled return at the end of April, and to date has proved successful. A significant increase in production was realised in early May and this is being monitored and ramped up accordingly. As to when full pre-COVID 19 outputs will return it is difficult to say. We are hopeful the issue will be clearer after people return from the annual holidays in August.

What are your personal opinions of MAN’s new TG range and what has initial customer feedback been like?

The new models have exceeded my expectations and I am confident the new line-up has started a new era of digitisation and this for us, is really a benchmark. The feedback received through the dealer network and directly from customers has been nothing but positive. It has been especially positive about the revolution inside the cab. This has given rise to a significant number of new enquiries, and from these enquiries new customers to the brand.

In late 2019 Andreas Renschler Head of TRATON AG (MAN’s Parent Company) said:Climate change was the greatest challenge facing the industry.” Is that still the case or will economic recovery now take centre-stage?

Climate change is still the biggest challenge. Meeting some of the deadlines might be a little delayed while we deal with this pandemic, but our commitment remains the same.

On research and development – following the highly successful two year in service trials of e-TGM. Is electric a way forward for MAN?  

We consider everything, and between 2020 and 2030 as a producer we need to keep our eyes everywhere, because there is no clear direction what the future will be. Currently we focus on e-mobility but we also have a close look at alternative solutions because the final answer on the future driveline is not there yet.

It is unfortunate that everything Thomas said he must qualify with the ‘ongoing situation” and what new restrictions or policies any Governments may introduce. Though he is certainly hopeful that in 6 to 12 month’s time things will be a lot different.

Conducted by Paul White – paul@fleet.ie

MAN presents the new generation of trucks in February 2020: TGL, TGS, TGX and TGM (from left).
MAN präsentierte im Februar 2020 seine neue Lkw-Generation: TGL, TGS, TGX und TGM (von links)