Act Of DAF-iance

It was a big day at Bayswater in mid August as PACCAR rolled out the first Australian assembled DAF CF85 and announced a AU$30 million investment in doubling the size and capacity of the Australian production facility. T&TA was there to capture the exciting day for PACCAR Australia.

One by one all the car manufacturing operations in Australia, have fallen by the wayside, but when it comes to building trucks Australia has a lot to beat its chest about. In fact far from closing plants down Australian truck making is expanding and enjoying some fairly largescale investment as a consequence. No government subsidies or tariff protection here, the three truck makers in Australia are doing it because it makes a good business case and they are selling trucks and making money.

It is, if you like, defying the trend of diminishing manufacturing activity, or in the case of PACCAR’s new commitment to building its Euro brand here, perhaps its an act of DAF-iance.

So it was at the purposeful and extremely impressive PACCAR plant nestled in the shadow of the Dandenongs at Bayswater, where far from resting on its laurels, after decades of heavy duty market dominance and a 46 year history of building trucks here, it has expanding its locally built offering by building DAF trucks alongside its much loved and market leading Kenworths.

The Bayswater facility is as we said impressive but the most important aspect of the PACCAR operation is its people. There is an enthusiasm in the plant that comes all the way from the top and is apparent on the faces of everyone that works there. The enthusiasm is quite contagious and when you gather all the plant workers together, mix in many loyal and successful fleet operators and owners along with some committed suppliers and you have a quite electric atmosphere.

As Australians, its fair to say that we probably haven’t had a lot to cheer about in recent times. The aforementioned car manufacturing shutdowns, the absolute meltdown of our cricket team, not to mention the political farce playing out in Canberra. However here is a good news story, something unsung and under reported, a total manufacturing success story that we should be beating our chests about.

The fact that DAF has been added to the manufacturing menu at Bayswater may not excite a lot of people but it underlines the flexibility and expertise PACCAR’s local subsidiary possesses and can only strengthen its foothold here.

The local PACCAR operation has the confidence of its headquarters in Seattle, which continues to deliver votes of confidence in the Bayswater operation by way of ongoing investment and commitment to local engineering resources. The wily and canny management team at PACCAR’s global HQ know their business as they zero in on an astonishing 80th consecutive year of profit later this year. Its an achievement that can’t be undersold in the volatile automotive industry, which has a history littered with failed companies and corporate losses.

The first locally built DAF rolled off the line a few days before the actual ceremony in mid August, allowing it to be prepared for handover to a major fleet that has long and loyal connections to PACCAR products.

PACCAR Australia managing director Andrew Hadjikakou presided over the line-off/handover ceremony, which saw the first Australian built DAF, delivered to Cahill Transport’s Mick and Dan Cahill in front of the industry representatives, PACCAR’s Australian staff and the trade press.

While the celebration was about the first local DAF the real story was in the background and involved the investment in the facility by the remarkable PACCAR group.

The investment, which a local PACCAR executive in passing confirmed totals $30 million, is already underway and will involve a large scale building program that will see the existing factory expanded into an L-shaped building doubling the factory capacity as well. The investment comes directly from PACCAR HQ in Seattle, and as mentioned earlier comes without any Australian federal or state government subsidies and will be completed by 2021, allowing the company which already dominates the heavy duty sales charts with Kenworth to lift its production volumes to match rising demand in the Australian market which should see around 14,000 heavy duty trucks sold here this year.

It wasn’t that long ago when a 10,000 unit HD market in Australia was seen as a healthy and buoyant number but industry experts are now saying that 15,000 will be the new normal as population continues to rise and the deficit in infrastructure is tackled around the country.

Andrew Hadjikakou, said the investment was a vote of confidence in the long-term future of the Australian operation as well as the ability and talents of the company’s 1,200 Australian employees and the many suppliers and contractors that enable the company to manufacture trucks here.

“We will be able to build more trucks with higher levels of quality and even better safety,” said Hadjikakou.

“Congratulations to all our employees, this is thoroughly deserved and I look forward to sharing more details of our planned expansion over the coming days,” he added.

“One thing is certain, investment in the plant, equipment and training to make this day possible will impact our future in many ways we cannot yet imagine,” he said.

PACCAR currently produces 15 Kenworths a day at Bayswater and at least initially it will also be producing five DAFs fortnight, although PACCAR will be working hard to increase demand for its Euro designed cab over brand in the face of rising sales for its rivals from Volvo, Mercedes Benz, Scania and even MAN.

Which ever way you cut it, the PACCAR announcement and the production of the first locally produced DAF is great news for complex manufacturing in Australia in the face of the closure of all car production in this country.

On the other hand truck manufacturing is in rude health, particularly with PACCAR and Volvo both committing large-scale investment locally without government subsidies and with teams of engineers working on local development programs. In time hopefully the general media and population will come to understand the importance of these operations and the investments behind them.

Article reproduced courtesy of Transport & Trucking Australia magazine (Issue 121, 2018)

Download the full article here.

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