The man tasked with the job of running Mercedes Benz trucks in Australia is Michael May, long time servant of the company and part of the relatively young team now steering the Daimler Trucks ship in this country. Diesel News talked to him about his past and the future for the truck brand.
“I started with the company as an engineer on Mercedes Benz trucks,” said May. “I had done a stint in mining before that, in New South Wales, working with equipment, roof bolting etc. I came into Daimler, as an engineer, doing a bit of testing, some sales engineering, speccing vehicles and that sort of stuff.
“I moved progressively through the company in different roles. I did some certification for the whole group for a while, when it was DaimlerChrysler, overseeing cars as well as Fuso, Freightliner and Benz.
May also did a stint in after sales for a while, running the technical side of after sales, service and training department. For someone from an engineering base, it was probably a good way to get closer to the customer and the dealer network. May reckons he found it different to being in the retail environment.
“I think I am lucky to have been through so many different roles,” said May. “I like being around people and everything I focus upon is around teams. If you’ve got a good team and you can get them all going the same way, you can make a real difference. At ground level, that relates to a guy who owns one truck or one who owns 20 or 100.
“From my perspective it’s nice to bring my retail experience back into the head office. We need to be better customer focused. We need to be able to look from their point of view. I like to think when we go through a trial like the one we are doing with next generation Actros. We place ourselves with the customer and look at it that way, not looking down as a manufacturer. It’s my philosophy to bring it from a simplified, customer’s view and build on it.
“At times our companies can be pretty complicated for Australia, which is a smaller market compared to some of the other markets Daimler is involved in. We’ve got to keep it simple and we’ve got to come from a customer’s perspective. On a sales front, that has been good for me, but my engineering background has always put me in good stead. All of our customers and drivers know a lot about our product, sometimes, more than us. You get some credibility when you stand there and tell them you tested trucks for five years.”
For the last couple of years the Mercedes Benz team have been concentrating on the next generation Actros. The model has undergone unprecedented pre-release testing in large number across a number of sectors of the Australian trucking industry. All leading to the big launch at the end of 2016.
“This trial has been good for us,” said May. “It’s not just about finding what we need to do to our truck, it’s also about taking the time to seed it into the network, as we tool them up and train them up. We are saying to them, are you guys ready? They are getting their exposure during the trial phase.
The introduction of the new Actros is a major step for the Mercedes Benz brand. The underperformance of the brand over a number of years sees sales figures well below competing European brands. The truck trial period is ensuring the metal will be up to the job (As we heard in the July issue of Diesel). It needs to the whole organisation to be ready to capitalise of the situation.
“We are not satisfied with where we are,” said May. “Plus or minus, we haven’t really moved forward. Part of the way we are planning to bring out this vehicle is about the way we support the product. It’s about the way we implement the products we introduce.
“Our offering goes more into maintenance and repair, this is what we are concentrating on. We are getting close to 40 per cent of our customers choosing the repair and maintenance contract. Our customers know what they’re up for each month. It’s going to be one of the pillars of our future.”