Norse force: Thor launches in the Middle East

HIAB Middle East launches Thor-branded equipment in Dubai, UAE

ANALYSIS, PMV, HIAB Middle East

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It’s fair to say that when the PMV team received an invitation to attend HIAB Middle East’s 2014 partner conference, we underestimated level of activity that the event would entail.

Sure, we expected the firm to unveil its principal’s latest lifting devices, but we failed to anticipate the unveiling of an entirely new equipment brand and its launch line-up.

Indeed, the emergence of Thor somewhat overshadowed HIAB’s next-gen product offerings, but that’s not to say that they failed to impress.

The kit unveiled included the successors to the XS loader cranes, the latest iteration of the Moffett truck-mounted forklift, and a pair of hook loaders specifically tailored to meet the requirements of end users operating in the Middle East.

“The X-CL models are basic, manually-operated cranes for hook applications,” said Mahendra Ekanayake, managing director of HIAB Middle East.

“This is a simple but effective range at a competitive price; ideal for typical operations in the Middle East. In this market, cranes tend to be used for less than a third of the time that their truck is in operation.

“This makes the X-CL models ideally suited to the region’s operators,” he explained.

In addition to the X-CL range, HIAB introduced the successors to its XS loader cranes: the X-CLX 178, the X-Duo 178, the HiDuo 188, and the X-HiPro 192. Compared to their predecessors, the latest models boast soft-sealing couplings, protected hoses and cables, faster extension with lower energy consumption, and increased reaches.

HIAB has also expanded the standard span of the crane loaders to 6m, an increase of 0.5m over its XS models.
“Span is quite important in this part of the world,” said Mahendra.

“The customer first buys the truck and then the crane, but they must ensure stability. Of course, the greater the span, the greater the stability,” he told PMV.

The HIAB product unveiling comprised the primary focus for the initial portion of the conference, which was attended by a selection of HIAB’s regional channel partners. Those present were given the opportunity to see a selection of the manufacturer’s latest products up close at the Meydan Hotel in Dubai, UAE.

However, before guests were led outside to peruse the products, HIAB Middle East pitched a bona fide curveball.
The company announced that its name was to change to Thor, and that it would launch an expanded range of products for the Middle East market.

“Today is a big day,” Greger Jacobson, chairman and owner of HIAB Middle East, told his audience.

“Today, we are going to launch a new brand name. We are introducing the Thor brand, and we have chosen Thor’s hammer as the logo. This is because we are committed to retaining our Swedish roots,” he added.

Although Jacobson’s company will continue to sell HIAB-manufactured products, it will also supply third-party manufactured products under the Thor brand name.

HIAB Middle East will use its existing dealer network to sell Thor equipment in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, except in the UAE, where Thor will sell directly to the market.

“For Thor, we have chosen the tagline, ‘Lift with our family’,” Jacobson told PMV.

“This is for several reasons. Of course, we sell lifting equipment. However, we are not just selling steel. We are selling solutions for our customers in order to lift their profitability.”

So why the name change? The news comes following Jacobson’s acquisition of HIAB Middle East, the former regional subsidiary of the Swedish manufacturer.

Essentially, the transition to Thor will allow the new owner and his team to sell third-party manufactured equipment in addition to HIAB’s range of lifting machines.

Following Jacobson’s revelation, attendees were led outside for a walk-around tour of both HIAB’s latest products and models from Thor’s launch line-up. With regards the latter, the company showcased a three-tonne forklift and a truck-mounted aerial work platform.

As you might expect, HIAB and Thor will not compete in the same market segment. Jacobson and his colleagues will continue to distribute the company’s Swedish-manufactured lifting equipment across the Middle East.

A variety of third-party manufacturers, meanwhile, will produce a range of equipment for Thor, hand-picked to complement the HIAB range. This arrangement, according to Jacobson, will allow his company to deliver high-quality, competitively priced kit with applications in a broader range of sectors.

It certainly didn’t take long for HIAB Middle East to convince its channel partners – or for its channel partners to convince their customers – to give Thor equipment a chance.

Clifford Sanctis, managing director of HIAB Middle East’s Omani dealer, Hydrotec, succeeded in selling a three-tonne Thor-branded forklift truck, sight unseen and over the phone on the day of the conference.

The sale came just minutes after the unveiling of the machine – and of the Thor brand itself. Sanctis, who also ordered a three-tonne unit for stock, is extremely confident that Thor-branded equipment will appeal to end users in Oman.

“I predict that the Thor concept will be very profitable,” he told PMV following the sale.

“This is competitively priced, high-quality machinery, so I expect it to be extremely popular amongst my customers in Oman.”

Sanctis’ customer didn’t even ask to see the machine before committing to the purchase. The Hydrotec boss said that this was a reflection of the trust that he and his colleagues have built with Omani end users – in conjunction with HIAB Middle East _ during the course of the past decade.

“I am convinced of the quality of Thor equipment, but the brand is new to the market,” he explained.

“People trust Hydrotec, not the product. Whatever Hydrotec sells, they know that it’s going to be of high quality.
“For this reason, I just called my customer, told him what the product was, quoted the price, and he committed to buying one on the spot, over the phone,” recounted Sanctis.

Perhaps it would be overly ambitious to expect every sale to be as straightforward as this one, but the fact that Hydrotec was so quick off the mark represents a preliminary indication that Jacobson and his team have struck the right note with Thor. If the company can ensure the quality of its third-party manufactured kit, then the Middle East could prove to be an ideal stomping ground for the brand.

Whatever the future holds, in the shorter term, Thor’s regional competitors should prepare to deal with a fresh breed of Norse force.

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