On the up and up: Wacker Neuson talks GCC growth
Manhal Al-Chalabi explains why the crisis was not necessarily a bad thing for Wacker Neuson’s longer-term GCC business
PMV: How long has Wacker Neuson been active in the Middle East market?
Manhal Al-Chalabi: We started here in 2001. That’s when I came to Dubai and established our office here. Wacker Neuson wanted to retain its German roots, but also grow in the Middle East. We started with just one person – me. Today, we have 10 people.
PMV: How’s business?
MAC: Today, we are generating approximately 20 times more turnover than we were at the beginning. Business is still fairly challenging in the Middle East, and fortunately, Wacker Neuson is doing well compared to the rest of the market. Following the crisis of 2009, our strong history in the GCC enabled us to increase our market share. We were able to achieve this because of our strong customer focus and effective dealer network.
PMV: Was Wacker Neuson a young brand in this region when you arrived?
MAC: Fortunately for me, it was already well established. Our UAE dealer, CMC, for example, has been our local representative for almost 30 years. Wacker Neuson already enjoyed a solid reputation.
PMV: How would you assess the GCC’s current construction landscape?
MAC: For us, it’s been a good year. Projects have started to move, especially in the UAE, Qatar, and Saudi. These are the three markets where significant construction is taking place. Wacker Neuson focuses on light and compact equipment. Although historically, the GCC has preferred heavier machinery, the market is really starting to move for models at the smaller end of the spectrum. I think that this trend is here to stay.
PMV: Who are your largest regional customers?
MAC: We work closely with many of the region’s largest operators. Six Construct, Dutco Balfour Beatty, Khansaheb, Speedy, Carillion, Saif Bin Darwish – I could, of course, go on.
We have been working with these companies for a very long time. These are repeat customers for Wacker Neuson; we regularly receive new orders. Our buyers are very happy with our products, and also with the aftersales support that they receive from both us and our dealers.
PMV: What role has innovation played in Wacker Neuson’s GCC growth?
MAC: Research and development is extremely important to our company. At bauma 2013, for instance, we introduced a plug-and-play excavator. We are also looking to bring it here to the GCC, as it’s ideal for use in enclosed areas. Staying with excavators, we have the Vertical Digging System (VDS). Even if the surface is not level, this technology allows the machine to dig level, which saves a lot of money and time for contractors.
As margins are so low, fuel economy is also becoming increasingly important to GCC end users. In this respect too, Wacker Neuson can offer a competitive advantage.
PMV: What are your market predictions for 2015?
MAC: Projects will continue to gather pace, and in turn, we will continue to assist contractors in their efforts.