Since January, Alexander Greschner has been responsible for global sales, service, logistics and marketing in the executive board of Wacker Neuson SE.
Greschner recently answered questions about key themes and market potentials for Wacker Neuson, Weidemann and Kramer.
The first half of the year in your new role as a member of the managing board is complete. What have you experienced in this time?
The first months in the new position were an exciting time with some important events, such as Conexpo in Las Vegas, the most important trade fair in our industry in North America, but also our customer and dealer events Wacker Neuson Universe and Kramer Expert Days, which were an excellent opportunity to speak with our customers and sales partners and get direct feedback from the market. Of course, I knew the area of construction equipment very well. I have used the last months to deal intensely with our compact machines. I have settled into the new role well and now it’s time to get the priorities right.
What would you like to focus on at Wacker Neuson?
In the sales organization, my focus is very clearly on continued growth in Europe, North America and China. These markets have very different requirements and must thus be handled individually. In the first quarter, Europe did very well, driven by countries such as Germany, the United Kingdom and Poland.
France also had notable development. In Europe, we are focused on the continued market penetration and optimization of the network from our own sales companies, trading partners and large rental chains. In addition, we are paying a great deal of attention to the agricultural sector. The European market for agricultural machines is recovering.
The expectations for most European countries are cautiously optimistic for 2017. We have just recently announced the strategic alliance with John Deere. The agreement covers the sale of Kramer-branded compact equipment (known as the “green line”) for the agricultural market. This range of products is developed and manufactured at the Kramer site in Pfullendorf, Germany, and includes all-wheel steered wheel loaders, telescopic wheel loaders and telehandlers, which John Deere will recommend to its strong network of dealers.
The collaboration will initially focus on Europe, expanding later to the CIS countries, North Africa and the Middle East. The co-operation is subject to the approval of the antitrust law authorities. With our Weidemann machines, in particular the Hoftrac, in individual European countries we are among the leading providers in the agriculture sector with compact and telescopic wheel loaders – and with a network of mostly unaffiliated dealers and sales specialists. Here we are setting our focus for the coming years on building up our success internationally.
In North America, we see a lot of room to grow after a difficult year 2016. We are planning to achieve double-digit growth in the region and expect a noticeable boost in our turnover and profit development. The region was extremely strong in the first quarter of 2017, which is also due to the large trade shows Conexpo, ARA Rental Show and World of Concrete. We are expecting to benefit also from the cautious recovery of the demand from the North American industry and the energy sector. Purchase orders from large rental companies who serve these segments have already been received. The mood at Conexpo was very good, which is always an important indicator. We were able to welcome many interested visitors to our stand, initiate and close deals, and show our performance efficiency with an impressive trade show presentation.
China currently is our biggest challenge. We have significantly increased the sales of our mini-excavators in a booming environment. With the construction of the new production plant in Pinghu, about 30 kilometers from Shanghai, we are expanding our production capacities in Asia and strengthening our local presence in China. Compact excavators will initially be manufactured here while additional products will follow. It is planned to roll the first compact excavators off the line in 2018. With these products tailored to the local market, first the Chinese, and later on the Asian market will be served.
Of course, our organization is also continuously working on expanding the market positions in traditionally important regions, such as Latin America, Australia and Africa.
Which role do electric drives play, especially from the customer’s point of view?
Electric drives are becoming increasingly important, also because they are increasingly demanded by the markets. These solutions represent an interesting addition to products with combustion engines, especially for rental companies. The sales figures of our zero emission solutions are noticeably rising.
The zero-emission series currently includes two battery-powered rammers, the dual power excavator, an electrically operated track dumper, an articulated electric wheel loader and the first all-wheel-steered wheel loader with an electric drive from Kramer.
Our aim is to offer a real alternative as an emission-free solution in every product group in the foreseeable future. Currently we were able to increase the running time of both battery rammers AS30e and AS50e by 50 percent by introducing a new battery generation, which has already proven itself very well in practice. The battery-operated wheel loader WL20e has been available with a high-quality AGM battery (“absorbent glass mat”) since the start of the year. Thanks to an on-board battery charger, the battery can now easily be charged with a cable at any power source, stationary or mobile. This is very important, especially when operating the wheel loader in everyday conditions on construction sites. The Wacker Neuson Group will focus on electric drives in the future as well and continue to develop the existing series.