Record sales figures and a major historical milestone are cause for celebration at UD Trucks Australia whose Vice President, Lauren Pulitano, is understandably excited by what the future might hold for the brand.
Prime Mover: Prior to your role with UD Trucks you spent a number of years at Volvo Buses. What are you looking forward to?
Lauren Pulitano: Brisbane was my first official truck show with the UD brand. I am so excited coming off the back of a record year, which followed on top of another record year, and we’re on track to have another one this year if the first two quarters are anything to go by. It’s now 50 years in Australia for the UD brand so the team is pumped and there are so many exciting things happening.
PM: What’s the main challenge?
LP: The industry is the biggest we’ve ever had in Australia in terms of 15,000 new Heavy Duty trucks last year, and it’s pumping again this year so it’s actually how the body builders and the other technicians can cope with the extra sales. It’s not just for UD Trucks, the situation is industry-wide. If we could magically click our fingers and pump them out, there’d be more UDs on the road.
PM: Did the sunset of the instant asset write off tax incentive have much of an effect on sales?
LP: At the end of the day trucks are important to Australia and the nation needs trucks whether there is a tax incentive or not. Organisations and transport companies are going to have to replace their trucks with new ones, and they’re going to have to grow their business with additional ones.
PM: UD Trucks was acquired by Isuzu in 2021. Do you see any complications as the situation develops?
LP: The situation is not so unusual because there are lots of examples in the automotive industry where there is the same parent company and then two, three, even four brands, and all fiercely competitive.
PM: Are we going the get the 13-litre engine by UD Trucks in Australia?
LP: Not in Australia. Obviously, it’s been launched in the Japanese domestic market but not in the Australian market.
PM: And yet another un-related Japanese competitor has a 13-litre available here?
LP: Big isn’t always better. If you have a look at our 11-litre and especially the enhanced 11-litre with the improved torque and extra horsepower, I’d say buyers would comfortably pick up a UD Quon over others.
PM: In the categories where UD operates, is there anything which can be done to better satisfy the current demand?
LP: The joy is there are markets such as Australia which are booming, whereas there are other truck markets which aren’t booming, so they can move around and figure out where to supply. From a prime mover perspective, our Quon GW model for example, we can get a lot of them in, and they don’t have to go to body builders or anything like that. Even if they don’t require a body there is still some constraint with the local industry supplying components such as bullbars. We are really committed with our rigid trucks to get support from the Australian body building industry. We may import our cab-chassis from Japan but I’m a big believer in supporting the local industry as well. It’s tough at the moment when we are in a sales boom, but it’s not going to be that big forever.
PM: Australia is building roads and major infrastructure projects such as the Inland Rail. Is the construction industry, including the 8×4 spec, an important part of the mix of applications for UD?
LP: Absolutely. From the UD Trucks perspective, and together with our Australian dealers, it’s not just concrete agitators, but a lot of our trucks go into other heavy construction applications as well. We’ve got the Olympics coming up in Brisbane in 2032 so there will be a lot of construction projects going on and the Federal and State Governments have committed to many other rail and road projects. Construction in Australia is year-round and for the UD brand that’s a major part of what we do. The finance sector is saying that approvals for new housing has gone down, but it’s widely accepted there’s a housing crisis, so we are going to be doing more construction in Australia, making it perfect timing to have our 8×4 agitator models out there.
PM: Is there much in the UD Trucks’ pipeline around technologies such as alternative propulsion and autonomous vehicles?
LP: There certainly is. It’s no secret that UD for a couple of years now has been busy developing the Fujin and Rajin (Wind and Thunder) Vision 2030 project. They’ve been busy working on it and have trials happening, which is exciting. I can’t say when it’s going to be here in Australia, but I can tell you one thing I have really loved about the UD brand is innovation. It’s what they do. They take on challenges and they have the position of wanting to challenge back. They’ll be celebrating 90 years globally in two years’ time and it’s interesting when you go back and look at the history of how much was really about the company mantra of ultimate reliability. When a new model comes here sometimes it can be a little frustrating because they take a little bit longer to develop it. They are very conservative but at the same time I love that because when it eventually comes here, it’s perfect. It will be very exciting when we get to bring the Fujin-Rajin program to Australia.
PM: You celebrate 50 years of UD Trucks in Australia this year. Is the dealer network an important factor in that success?
LP: One hundred per cent! We say we are only as good as our dealer network, and I genuinely believe that. I know with our brand, our customers benefit from having access to, and being supported by, the entire Volvo Group Australia dealer network. I know we are often told we should be humble but, hands down, I believe we’re strong because we have the three brands of Volvo, Mack and UD. The power of the Volvo Group and the three brands means we complement each other, and from headquarters down and with our dealers, we are family.
*Since the publication of this story Volvo Group announced Lauren Pulitano would be moving into the role of Vice President of Public Affairs.