For any big-ticket purchase, end users want to know before they checkout that if anything goes wrong, they can turn to the supplier for support. Warranties, therefore, provide definite value to consumers – they are an assurance that the company stands behind its product and is ready to support it for the long haul.
It is for this reason that leading truck importer, ESI, is rolling out a standard 5-year/ Unlimited Mileage warranty on all FT Series M4 spec models. Bennett says the offering is prompted by the demands of the consumers, especially when one views the high cost of purchasing capital equipment/assets such as trucks. With the influx of more competitors, each brand is being pushed to offer that extra added value.
“In a pioneering development, we are offering a standard 5-Year/Unlimited Mileage warranty on all of our FT Series M4 spec models,” he says. “With this warranty, our customers will get peace of mind and assurance that they will get lasting value from the product.”
Warranty in detail
The first year of the warranty covers all the mechanical functions, from bumper to bumper. The second year covers the driveline – engine, gearbox, diff and propshaft. Years three, four and five cover the base engine – the heart and soul of the engine, including the block, the pistons, and the crankshaft – for an unlimited mileage, and/or duration, whichever occurs soonest. This, however, excludes bolt-ons such as the turbo, alternator, oil and water pumps.
A thorough research and development (R&D) regime, says Bennett, has established that the product is rugged enough to carry the groundbreaking warranty. Once dismissed as low-end upstarts, Bennett argues that Chinese truck makers have built up their capabilities and now compete head-to-head with the Japanese product.
“The 5-Year/Unlimited Mileage warranty speaks volumes about the quality of the product and the support behind it, which adds great value, and gives us a competitive edge. It gives our customers the peace of mind knowing that they won’t have to deal with costly repairs due to relevant breakdowns,” he says.
In case of a breakdown, he adds, the OEM and the dealers will provide highly skilled technicians who are specifically trained to repair the trucks. This means that repairs will always be done right the first time without slow turnaround times and inaccurate diagnoses, thus maximising truck uptime, and subsequently maximising profitability.
In addition to the new warranty, Ever Star Industries is expanding the FT Series range with the addition of the new FT9 model. The new model offers 15-21 t of payload, depending on configuration.
A major talking point, says Bennett, is the Cummins four-cylinder engine, which he believes changes the game in this size class. The Cummins ISF4.5 E3210 engine (Euro 3) delivers 154 kW of power at 2 500 rpm. While the 210 hp is some 10 hp less than the six-cylinder engine commonly found on competitor offerings in this size category, it still offers the same level of performance with reduced fuel consumption.
“The four-cylinder engine is a game changer for us. Firstly, it offers better fuel consumption compared to the older six-cylinder run by some of our closest competitors in this size class. Secondly, two cylinders less means reduced service and maintenance costs,” he says.
Another key feature is the ZF six-speed Ecolite manual gearbox featuring a light aluminium alloy shell and optimised gear ratio for reduced fuel consumption, as well as an updated helical tooth design for ease of operation. Closest competitors, says Bennett, run an eight-speed splitter gearbox, which is complex to drive compared with the six-speed offering. “Not everyone is able to operate the splitter gearbox, which makes the risk of damage very high,” he says.
“The model comes with cruise control as standard. Air conditioning is also standard, as well as the MP3 radio with a USB port to allow drivers to charge their cell phones on the go. Driver comfort is a key focus area in today’s operating conditions. In fact, drivers do influence purchasing decisions, which is why the FT9 places the driver at the centre of its design,” says Bennett.
Armed with a simple, well-priced and rugged product that is complemented by a good aftersales support network, the FT range has gained considerable ground in the medium commercial vehicle market since its local introduction in 2018. Key to the range’s growth, says Bennett, is that it strikes a good balance between quality, price and effective backup support.
The medium commercial vehicle segment is a tightly contested market in South Africa, with Japanese manufacturers traditionally known to be the leaders in this market segment. In recent years, Chinese OEMs have aggressively started to challenge the status quo for market share with products that have continuously evolved and improved (rapidly) over the years.
Improved build quality and better aftermarket footprints are some of the key pillars of growth. The simple, rugged product speaks directly to the needs of the ‘value-driven’ consumer seeking quality, value, and reliability at a lower price point.
The FT range has fared very well over the past five years. “Over the years, we have seen constant sales growth. In 2019, we sold some 64 units, before growing our sales to 146 the following year. We saw a slight growth in 2022, with a total of 173 units sold. Last year was good for us, with 244 units sold, representing a 25% year-on-year growth rate,” says Bennett. “We have made strong inroads into big-fleet clients, which further promotes the capabilities of the truck and the support behind it.”
Backed by the new 5-Year/Unlimited Mileage warranty, Bennett is confident that the FT range will see a far greater growth in the coming years. While the focus is on-road applications, he also sees opportunity in the construction and quarrying sectors and/or industries, where the FT Series range – with a payload range from 3-t to 13-t – can act as a backup vehicle, and/or more efficient vehicle to run the shorter and smaller loads.
Having a good product is one thing, but being able to offer crucial backup and parts support once the product is operational in the field, is quite another. Based on a clear understanding of this notion, ESI has, over the years, invested in a strong and focused dealer network across the region (South Africa, and some of the other southern African countries).
The dealer network is complemented by ESI’s ability to hold a large inventory of parts and has even established another two parts warehouses in Pietermaritzburg, near its assembly plant. All of this ensures better service to its customers operating both within and near that region.
“It must also be appreciated that this dealer network is always evolving, with the addition of more dealers, and focused training from both Cummins and ZF, as well as the OEM itself (ESI/Foton),” concludes Bennett.