Europe’s truck manufacturers are fighting on two fronts: They are engaged in a new international battle for the growing markets in Asia, South America and Eastern Europe, and they are struggling for market share gains and margin improvements on their home turf in the European markets.
For the fifth time during the past 20 years, Bain has interviewed directors at transport companies, truck drivers, truck owners and heads of purchasing in Europe. Over the course of 20 years, we have surveyed some 2,000 truck customers in France, Germany, Italy, Russia, Spain, the Benelux, the Nordics, Poland and the United Kingdom about their key purchasing criteria and their views on trucks, service and dealer relationships. In the revised 2012 survey, we interviewed 550 truck customers in France, Germany, Italy, the Nordics, Russia and the UK.
Long-term survival may require success on a global scale, but in the midterm Europe’s mature markets, though they are growing more slowly, remain stable and profitable. Bain & Company believes that European truck manufacturers can excel in their home markets and create a competitive edge by focusing on their customers’ needs. Over the course of 20 years, we’ve interviewed more than 2,000 customers to learn what factors customers find most important when they decide on which truck supplier to use. This report, which focuses on the opportunity in Europe, reports on our fifth and most recent survey of 550 buyers of heavy and medium trucks in six key European markets.
Key purchasing criteria are slowly changing
Among our findings, we learned that buyers are increasingly making purchasing decisions based on the value they get for their money, including the purchase price, operating costs and the truck’s performance. Fewer and fewer buyers say that brand image plays a role in purchasing decisions, but they increasingly value good relationships with dealers, service points, and manufacturers.
Brand differentiation goes beyond the truck
Differentiating trucks is getting harder. The different brands have reached a minimum level of performance, beyond which it is difficult to get paid for superior performance. But now the meaning of “truck performance” is moving more and more from engine and gearbox performance to other factors such as fuel efficiency, cost, dealer relationships and service offers. We believe these will become the main differentiators for truck manufacturers in the years to come.
Customer loyalty and growth are interlinked
Looking at the industry from a customer loyalty perspective, we see three clusters of truck manufacturers: Loyalty Leaders, Loyalty Specialists and Loyalty Followers. Customers of the Loyalty Leaders testify a broad set of strengths across nearly all regions, customer groups and branches. The Loyalty Specialists excel in several strongholds—countries, customer groups and customer industries in which they retain a fair number of loyal customers. The Loyalty Followers also tend to have some regions, aspects and segments where they can keep up, but on a balanced assessment this group will be challenged to keep their ground. Comparing the loyalty results and the market developments of the past years, we see a significant interdependence: Loyalty Leaders and Specialists expand without a loss of profitability—mainly at the expense of the Loyalty Followers.
Three factors to win in Europe
The implications of our study lead us to a set of factors required to win in Europe during the next decade: a combination of the right product and service standards at an optimum value-to-cost ratio for each region and customer segment, defined by customer fleet size or customer industry.
- The closer a company can get to an “optimum specification” that differentiates their total truck solution to any given customer group, the better it will be able to deliver at an optimal cost and at the right service level to its customers. Truck performance, especially regarding fuel efficiency and reliability, remains one of the most important customer concerns.
- Truck makers and dealers can also differentiate themselves by improving their service offer—not just the quality of their service and consistency of delivery, but also supplemental services which can help customers succeed in their businesses.
- Managing customer relations will also be critical. Truck makers and dealers can get further in their understanding of customers’ needs. These are increasingly including the full offer—from the vehicle performance, the dealership, the service offering, financing, and ancillary services. The ability to meet customers’ expectations across the value-chain will be key to how customers decide to buy their next truck.
About the authors
Dr. Jörg Gnamm is a partner at Bain & Company and manages the Munich Bain office. He has extensive experience in the commercial vehicles and automotive industry and in industrial goods.
Johan Lundgren is a partner at Bain & Company and the managing partner for the Swedish office. He has more than 20 years of experience serving clients in the commercial vehicles, manufacturing and industrial goods markets.
Dr. Klaus Stricker is a partner at Bain & Company in Frankfurt and a leader of the Automotive practice. He advises global manufacturers, suppliers and services providers in the automotive after sales.
Martin Nilvall is practice area manager for Industrial Goods and Services in the EMEA region at Bain & Company. He has extensive experience in the commercial vehicles, manufacturing and industrial investment space.