Brighter days for DAF

By: Steve Brooks


Paccar is officially launching its new DAF 510hp CF85 model at the 2017 Brisbane Truck Show

Brighter days for DAF
DAF 510hp CF85. Spearhead of a renewed focus on DAF

 

The anticipated introduction of a 510 horsepower version of DAF’s versatile CF85 model has the potential to create an entirely new era for the brand, according to DAF Trucks Australia general manager, Rob Griffin.

The 510hp CF85 will be officially launched at the upcoming Brisbane Truck Show.

DAF’s sales figures for the first quarter of 2017 were notably improved over previous years and the imminent introduction of the uprated CF85 is expected to provide significant impetus to plans for substantial growth of Paccar’s continental cab-over.

Yet despite its established position as one of Europe’s most powerful players and arguably Paccar’s greatest success story, Rob Griffin concedes DAF has long struggled for recognition on the Australian market.

Formerly national sales manager at Kenworth, he says there are many factors behind DAF’s modest acceptance by Australian truck operators, including a reputation forged long before Kenworth and Peterbilt parent Paccar took control of the Dutch truck and engine maker.

"No doubt about it, the brand got off to an ordinary start in this country," he says, recalling pre-Paccar days when DAF’s Dutch principals largely took the Australian market for granted.

"They were putting the truck into applications that just weren’t right for it, and they brought it here without any real testing, obviously thinking it could do anything other trucks were doing.

"It wasn’t a bad truck," Rob Griffin insists. "In most cases it was just badly applied."

DAF first came to Australia in 1984 when the brand was still a Dutch company. After a poor experience, the Dutch ultimately took their truck home.

Then in 1996 Paccar paid US$540 million for the beleaguered brand and followed that in 1998 by taking control of Leyland operations in the UK where all right-hand-drive DAF trucks are now made.

Despite the sceptics – and there were plenty of them – the acquisitions were an inspired move by Paccar. Applying its renowned management skills and economic acumen, Paccar turned the otherwise defeated DAF into a European powerhouse where it is today market leader in a number of countries including the highly competitive UK market. Last year alone DAF registered almost 47,000 trucks in Europe.

Critically, it’s also a brand with a solid reputation for fuel efficiency from its own MX11 and MX13 engines, endorsing again the long-term reasoning behind Paccar’s decision to buy a truck brand that made its own engines. At the end of last year there were more than 135,000 MX engines powering Kenworth and Peterbilt models across the length and breadth of North America.

DAF Trucks Australia general manager, Rob Griffin. "The product is the best it has ever been."

Declaring a firm faith in DAF’s prospects for a stronger place on the Australian market, Rob Griffin asserts that much of the brand’s reputation and sales mediocrity in this country are based on aged perceptions rather than modern realities.

"We’ve done a lot of work behind the scenes and the way DAF was in the past, belongs to the past," he comments.

As for the suggestion that DAF in this country is often viewed as a poor cousin to big brother Kenworth, Rob doesn’t mince his words. "That’s how some others may see it, but they’re wrong.

"We take the Kenworth association as a bonus. We’re setting up this business to complement what Kenworth brings to the market, not to take anything away from either brand.

"The simple truth is that there are some applications best suited to a European cab-over and that’s where we’re aiming with DAF.

"In fact, when you bring something new into the product range like this CF85 with an MX13 engine at 510hp, it creates an entirely new focus for the brand and opens us up to sections of the market we haven’t had before.

"It will be enormous for us," he contends, "particularly with fleets. Price-wise it will be very competitive."

Rob says the new model will be a spearhead in DAF’s re-emergence. "The 510 horsepower CF is a really important truck to our growth," he emphasises. "As it stands at the moment, the CF at its 460 horsepower rating is DAF’s best seller but for local and regional B-doubles, the industry has a psyche around 500 horsepower and that’s where the 510 rating under the CF cab opens up new market segments to DAF."

However, the 510hp CF85 will not be aimed at linehaul work, Rob remarks. "The CF 510 is our suburban and intrastate model for either single trailers or B-doubles up to 70 tonnes.

"We’ve specced it that way," he continues, "with a 16-speed automated (ZF AS-Tronic) transmission for the flexibility to flow with suburban traffic and provide the right balance between performance and fuel."

The 510hp CF85 will be offered in 4x2, 6x4 and 8x4 configurations, and a confident Rob Griffin cites fuel economy, tare weight, cab entry and exit, vision and manoeuvrability as inherent assets of the model.

"This truck will definitely surprise people but it’ll be critical to get people into it, to drive it and assess the truck on merit rather than mindset," he emphasises.

"We have very few problems with our trucks in the field and we’re in no doubt the product is the best it has ever been.

"We have all the right systems and packages in place so now we just have to keep getting people behind the wheel.

"The truck will do the rest," a confident Rob Griffin concludes.

Read more on the new DAF 510hp CF in the May 2017 edition of Owner//Driver.

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