THE NEW DEALERSHIP: The centre seems to stretch for miles and miles.
THE NEW DEALERSHIP: The centre seems to stretch for miles and miles. Graham Harsant

Daimler celebrates new digs

CHANCES are that if you buy a car, any car, it will come from a dealership owned by AHG - Automotive Holdings Group.

The company, Australia's largest, has its finger in so many pies that to list them here would take up all the available space for this article.

Suffice to say this is a company that knows how to conduct business successfully.

Trucks also form part of the company's portfolio and in 2016, AHG opened a mega outlet for its Daimler Truck franchise in Perth, covering an area of some 47ha.

In that year it also acquired the Mercedes-Benz Commercial Vehicles storefront from Mercedes- Benz Australia Pacific, rebranding it Daimler Trucks Laverton.

Two years down the track and AHG has just opened its new outlet at 1 Moorinna Way, Truganina.

From 22ha to 68ha makes this the largest Daimler Trucks showroom and service centre in the country, and along with sites in Queensland, Western Australia and New South Wales, represents about 40per cent of Daimler sales.

This latest outlet represents a $30million-plus investment from AHG, reflecting its faith in the Daimler product - Mercedes-Benz, Freightliner and Fuso.

Externally, there are display bays for 135 trucks, with the showroom/service area covering a massive 11,800sqm.

There are 48 service bays and six wash bays covering such a large area that four toilet blocks are installed at appropriate intervals.

There is shaker and roller testing for suspension and pits big enough to drive your B-double into without unhooking.

There are also 11 pre-delivery build-up stations.

The technicians - with access to more than $1million worth of special tools - have runners to deliver the parts they may require from the $3.6million worth of stock stored onsite.

There is an overhead crane, reminiscent of those you see moving containers at the docks, which can lift a five-tonne engine or transmission out of a truck and move it to any position within the workshop.

There is $25,000 worth of oil sitting in the pipelines before the first litre of oil is pumped into a truck.

That's a lot of pipes and a lot of oil.

"This is very exciting for both us and Daimler Trucks,” said Don Hovenden, Daimler Trucks Laverton dealer principal.

"We have spared nothing to make this the best we possibly can. The expectation of the truck customer is that when his truck breaks down, we need to be there to support him/her.

"Bearing that in mind, we are open from 7am through midnight and we have a breakdown service with two vans on call all day, every day, 24/7, operating within a 300km radius.

"Should we require it, Daimler will even open the warehouse on Christmas Day, allowing us in to get the part we need.

"Our goal is to diagnose a problem within two hours and hopefully repair it in that timeframe as well.

"When we put the customer in (the waiting lounge), we don't stop until we get an answer. And they will know within two hours what's going on either way.

"While waiting, our customers can have a coffee, watch a little bit of TV, and in some cases there are the two lead service bays which can be displayed on monitors in the lounge area.

"The customer can actually watch his truck being repaired.”

Elite support -

a new way of

doing business

In conjunction with AHG's official opening, Matt Smedley, senior manager of dealer development for Daimler Trucks and Buses, spoke to those assembled.

Mr Smedley moved here at the end of April from the US, where he had responsibility in North America for dealer development and led the launch of Elite Support.

"Elite Support has been going on in the US and Canada since about 2009 when we had the concept approved,” he said.

"In 2010 we piloted the idea and in 2011 we launched it to our dealers. In 2012 we launched it to our customers and it's been running strong ever since.

"In Australia we are in a much earlier phase, but one reason I was brought here is because we have seen with Daimler Trucks globally that Elite Support is really a new way for us, dealers and OEMs to work together to better serve customers.

"It's about improving the customer experience and recognising that we all have a part to play.

"It's not only about the amazing products, but also about excellent customer support and service.

"We talk about Elite Support as a culture, which is not a term you usually hear from manufacturers of vehicles.

"We think it's really important to have a culture that believes in a customer-focused way of doing business.

"Continuous improvement is really what Elite Support is all about. Really it's a partnership - working together jointly with our dealers to improve the end-customer experience.

"If I were you I might be sceptical of hearing someone from an OEM talk about true partnership because that's not the traditional way OEMs operate.

"It also requires Daimler to look long and hard at its own processes and be really reflective about where Daimler can better serve its customer, i.e. dealers. This is what we have done in America and it is what we are doing here.”

There are 130 criteria to be credited as an Elite Support outlet and it's a 12- to 18-month process to become Elite Support Certified.

"We currently have 14dealers of a network of approximately 60 in process,” Mr Smedley said.

"Most of them are not certified but a year from now we will have more and more.

"Daimler does not dictate a timeline to become certified. The key is to become sustainable with a dealership and really focus on continuous improvement.

"Culture is the key.”

Servicing to a plan

Graeme Payton is the manager for after-sales operations at Daimler.

"Service plans falls under my responsibility,” he said.

"Historically, service plans have been very much a fleet tool, which is not necessarily right. They have always been available to all customers but I think it's the big fleets that have really identified the benefits that come from the service plans.

"We now see a lot more medium and smaller operators starting to take out service plans and also realise the benefits that the fleets have known about for many years.

"They are effectively a tool for the customer to manage their costs and their risk.

"We forecast the length of running time the customer wants to run the vehicle. We look at how much maintenance, servicing, repairs, wear and tear will be involved in a period of time and then come up with the cost.

"Once we have the cost, we divide it into a fixed monthly payment and that's what the customer pays for the length of the plan. It's very much case-by-case with the plans tailored to suit the customer's needs.

"We have four off-the-shelf levels which can all be fine-tuned to suit the customer's needs.

"The benefits? Known costs, attractive part and labour rates, less overheads required by the operator, nationwide service, peace of mind and improved resale.

"What's not to like?”

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