When Michael Dietz joined Daimler in 1990 in his early 20s, he knew he had found a company to invest his career in. “I started as a sales trainee in what was then called Daimler-Benz AG,” he tells The CEO Magazine.
He quickly progressed through the ranks of the organisation – on his path to becoming the Head of Global Marketing Mercedes-Benz Trucks in 2014 (a position he held until December 2019), his roles included Sales Manager Commercial Vehicles and Director Sales for Government Business/Diplomats and Customers in Direct Business.
As he celebrated his 30th anniversary with the German multinational vehicle manufacturer at the start of 2020, Michael found himself on a plane to South Africa to take the next step in his journey: CEO of Daimler Trucks & Buses Southern Africa (DTBSA).
“I have always moved between headquarters, functions and markets in the organisation and it was clear that my next function should be outside in the market again,” he explains.
With four of Daimler’s truck brands – Fuso, Freightliner, Mercedes-Benz Trucks and Western Star – present in the region, as well as Mercedes-Benz Buses, it was a posting he had coveted.
“The Southern African region for us, as Daimler Trucks & Buses, is one of the most important globally, so I was very keen to take on this role,” he confesses. What Michael hadn’t envisaged was for his appointment to coincide with a global pandemic – something he has spent much of his first year in Africa navigating.
This is a diverse, international and experienced group of people – our team is the real star.
“The biggest challenge has been how to keep our team safe,” he says, adding that its 1,000-plus employees are spread out across sales, services, production and dealership roles. “Our sales and marketing organisation here in our Pretoria headquarters was able to work from home, but for the people in the production plant as well as in our service facilities and dealerships, there was no alternative. We had to ensure safety measures and protocols were in place in order to resume our operations.”
Along with production facilities in East London, DTBSA also sources its trucks and buses from manufacturing plants in India, Japan, Germany and Brazil. “Another current challenge is ensuring that our global supply chain continues to function,” Michael says.
“Otherwise, we are sitting in our region without any products.” However, COVID-19 hasn’t stopped the company from “moving forward”.
Amid the global health crisis, the business unveiled the new Mercedes-Benz Actros, named International Truck of the Year 2020. Michael admits he was pleasantly surprised by the positive reception it generated.
“Of course, a lot of feedback was about the truck, but there was also a lot of acclaim for undertaking a market launch in a lockdown situation,” he smiles. “The media saw it as a sign of hope for the economy that we, as a global market leader, were bringing in new products during turbulent times.”
Bringing new products and services to market is one of his key areas of focus in the role and, along with the Actros, the company will unveil new models in the Fuso and Mercedes-Benz Bus lines in 2021. Also new for this year is rolling out its telematics solution, Fleetboard, as standard for Mercedes-Benz Trucks across the entire region.
Michael believes that it’s the company’s unrivalled set-up of brands that differentiates it from its competitors. “It allows us to address entire markets, rather than specific segments or applications,” he explains.
“Mercedes-Benz is the premium brand driven by innovation, safety and technology, whereas Fuso is a highly reliable workhorse, a proper product for nearly all applications and segments. It’s also in our DNA to offer, together with our dealer partners, the entire value chain. We’re not just delivering a product, we deliver finance, services, connectivity and telematics, uptime and a used truck business. We offer to our valued customers the comprehensive solution out of one hand.”
What also gives DTBSA the edge is the more than 30 nationalities that work together in the business. With so many years of experience within the company, Michael appreciates just how significant this is.
“We must ensure we act globally because our brands do business in more than 180 markets,” he says. “This is a diverse, international and experienced group of people – our team is the real star.”
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