The notion that only high risk will yield a high return is the bedrock of modern finance, but it has hardly ever had a bearing on Germany’s somewhat conservative trailer manufacturing scene. All the more surprising was the proposal Krone’s Marketing Manager Ingo Lübs put forward after Germany’s national football team beat Brazil 7:1 in the most memorable semi-final of World Cup history.
Lübs and truck OEM Mercedes-Benz, a long-time sponsor of the German Football Association (DFB), had come up with the idea of developing an oversized convertible that would carry the team around Berlin in case they would make the dream of a fourth World Cup title come true.
“It was a risky idea given the investment involved, but we believed the exposure would easily outdo any marketing ploy the trailer industry has ever seen,” Lübs says. “Who would have thought Krone was willing to go with it?”
Less than a week before the final game against Argentina, Lübs pitched the idea of a convertible semi to Krone’s senior management, who only took 15 minutes to reach a verdict. Agreeing the plan was “somewhat charming”, they decided to make it a reality – on one condition. In case Germany would lose the final, the trailer would have to be mothballed until the next tournament.
Once Krone, the DFB board and trucking powerhouse Daimler gave the go-ahead, Krone’s team had less than 100 hours until the German squad would arrive back in Germany. And, there was still no guarantee they would actually bring the Cup with them.
Unfazed by the gamble, Krone assembled the company’s most experienced tradesmen to transform a standard Cool Liner model into a stunning mobile stage capable of carrying the 23-strong German squad from the capital’s Tegel airport to the Brandenburg Gate, pulled by an all-new Mercedes-Benz Actros 1863.
Usually, Krone would calculate roughly three months to develop and build a prototype. This time, the company’s engineering team had less than five days to create the ‘rolling stage’ and get it to Berlin on time. The highly motivated team made it in four.
“It’s been an amazing experience. The team handled every design challenge on the spot while the rest of the vehicle was still under construction – all to ensure we would finish the project in time for the team to get back,” says Lübs. “We were so excited about the prospect of celebrating the first championship as a reunified Germany that failing wasn’t really an option.”
The team had to weld in a stabilising mezzanine floor, design a set of custom handrails for added safety and smoothen the exterior trim to allow for the final vinyl wrap, which was completed in Berlin while the final was being held halfway around the world at Rio de Janeiro’s legendary Maracanã stadium.
“It wasn’t so much about getting the job done,” says Lübs. “We were more concerned about the team being able to break the spell and win the first World Cup since 1990. There was no plan B.”
After a dramatic final, Germany ended up winning 1:0 in extra time – paving the way for Lübs’ convertible dream to finally come true. “The atmosphere post-final was ecstatic but also extremely tense, as both truck and trailer, as well the team bus had to be finished before the squad arrived back in Germany. At the same time, Mercedes kept asking for image material to promote the parade in national media, so the pressure was extremely high.
“On the other hand, we all felt very honoured to be part of something historic – the first World Cup for a unified Germany. But it wasn’t until pictures of the truck started to appear on international news that we realised we were actually going to make it. I think none of us will ever forget that project.”
After a short and restless night, nearly half a million revellers packed Berlin’s fan mile – a 1.3km stretch of road running from the west of the capital up to the iconic Brandenburg Gate – to see the World Cup truck in action. Many more lined the streets in the city centre along the team’s route, waving flags and wearing the national colours as they basked in the nation’s fourth World Cup victory.
The Krone team was right amongst them, celebrating what genuinely was a win/win for everyone.