According to the company’s Export Director’s ambitious plan, Guillermo Maestre, Lecitrailer is planning to increase production from 6,900 units last year to more than 7,700 in the year to come, in turn boosting revenue from €221 million to €250 million. In an exclusive interview, he shares his vision for Lecitrailer through to 2020 and reveals why not all European volume manufacturers are alike.
Q: As the only Spanish company to be featured in Global Trailer’s annual OEM Ranking, Lecitrailer has firmly established itself as one of the powerhouses in European trailing building. If you had to summarise the company’s value proposition in one sentence, what would it be?
A: A great question that deserves a brief and distinct response – to listen to our customers’ needs. It’s not about imposing our product on anyone, but entering into a genuine partnership that will lead to positive business outcomes for everyone involved.
Q: Let’s fast forward to 2020 for a moment. Where does Lecitrailer stand in the GT OEM ranking and how did it get there?
A: If you look at European names only, we’ve ranked seventh in 2017, so we intend to be part of the European top five by then. To reach that position, we not only need to retain the market share we have in Spain, but also grow in other volume markets such as in France. However, our goal is to keep any growth profitable.
Q: You currently export about 47 per cent of your production, equating to roughly 3,500 vehicles. Do you think that ratio will change as you expand?
A: Yes, it’s part of the plan. According to our forecast, Spain will only account for 40 per cent of sales in the mid- to long-term, with 60 per cent of sales being made outside of Spain. You see, our domestic market share is 27 per cent, so it’s complicated to maintain continuous growth without looking beyond our borders and reverse the ratio between Spain and export markets.
Q: In that context, do you feel threatened by the growing competition from trailer builders such as Schwarzmüller, Kässbohrer, Kögel or Wielton, which are all adding capacity and gearing up for growth in the same region?
A: We all share the same goal – to grow – but our strategies to achieve it are different, so I don’t feel threatened. At Lecitrailer, we want to be seen as part of our customers’ businesses and help them find the right solutions to succeed in the market and be compliant. That’s how we will set ourselves apart.
Q: In a recent Global Trailer interview, China’s CIMC brand has also indicated interest in growing in Europe. What’s your take on it? Does it concern the trailer building community that the world’s most powerful OEM is knocking on the door?
A: CIMC has been present in Europe for a number of years now via LAG, and it continues to be quite persistent in its pursuit of the European market, which is something we respect. There is a new operation in Poland that people are talking about, but it hasn’t affected us yet. We are not competing in the same market segments as CIMC Poland, and our respective sales propositions are quite different, so we focus on ourselves for now and our own expansion in Europe.
Q: With exports playing such an important role in the Lecitrailer business, do you consider yourself a European company producing in Spain, or a Spanish company doing business in Europe?
A: I think it’s a combination of both, but if we had to choose the option that matches most with our business philosophy, it would be a European company that produces in Spain – driven by a distinctively global mindset. Our aim is to consolidate our image as one of the global players in Europe.
Q: With that in mind, would you say there is still a classic Lecitrailer client? If so, what are they like?
A: As a brand with global ambitions, we cannot say there’s only one type of client anymore. It’s a question of country, industry and distribution model. Sometimes our customers are distributors or truck dealerships; sometimes they are fleets that approach us directly. The one thing they all have in common is they appreciate our commitment to catering to their specific needs, with reasonable prices and short delivery times.
Q: Speaking of evolving client relationships – the European market seems surprisingly upbeat at the moment, even though some experts predicted a cooldown in the near future. What’s your take on the current business environment?
A: There’s always a certain risk of a cooldown, it’s the nature of the beast. The Spanish market was already slightly down last year, probably due to the big expansion we saw between 2014 and 2016, which led to a drop in fleet renewals in 2017. Every market moves in a cycle, there will always be periods of growth and slow phases, even recessions. Let’s just hope we won’t experience a crash again like the one we saw in 2009, which was very hard to cope with.
Q: We are entering another IAA season. Do you think the general buying mentality has changed since the last Commercial Vehicle Show in 2016, especially with view to Brexit?
A: Let’s just say these political moves do not benefit the industry. Instead of fostering a strong and united economic zone, we weaken our global position by questioning the European idea. Personally, I’d like to see ‘more Europe’, especially with view to regulations, which still vary greatly from country to country. A common system would definitely help the European trailer industry, for example. As for Brexit – it has certainly isolated Great Britain to a degree and affected cohesion across the EU, too. Let’s see what happens, maybe there’s still hope they’ll stay.
Q: With that in mind, in which regions do you see the most potential for growth in 2018?
A: Russia and nearby countries seem to have the biggest growth potential right now, as they are still very low with view to registrations. This is mainly due to the low price of petrol and subsequent lack of foreign currency, which would help invest in equipment.
Q: In your new corporate video you also mention growing traction in Africa and Latin America. What are your plans for this region?
A: We want to build our presence in these markets by partnering with local distributors and manufacturing partners. Latin America is challenge, because of the huge physical distance and ensuing cost of transportation when compared to US brands, but we still see some potential there. As for Africa, it’s more a question of product adaptation to suit a network of very complex markets that all seem to follow different rules and trends at the moment.
Q: Let’s continue talking about trends for a moment. Today’s trailer design is arguably the most advanced it has ever been, with telematics technology providing real-time connectivity and new building materials managing the balancing act between tare weight and strength in ways unimaginable even a decade or two ago. What are the main trends from your perspective, and where does Lecitrailer see potential to continue innovating?
A: Connectivity is the key word for us. We need to help fleets provide useful information to the end-customer – ranging from vehicle location and active load optimisation through to maintenance planning. That’s why we work closely with our suppliers to implement the latest technologies in our design and manufacturing processes. Our policy is to act as a ‘technology counsellor’ specialised in improving customer outcomes by integrating new technologies in a smart, efficient way. In taking on that mantle, we are acutely aware that some of systems offered directly through OEMs are not the best solution for the client, which is why we often need to act as a systems integrator, if you will.
Q: That’s somewhat of a controversial statement. A new industry trend is seeing some very influential OEMs morph into ‘one-stop shops’ controlling the entire value chain – from trailer design through to tyre supply. You don’t necessarily seem to share that vision?
A: Lecitrailer’s sole goal is to identify the easiest way for each customer to use a vehicle, so we don’t want to ‘hijack’ them by spec’ing parts that are only available through a specific network. Customers should be able to choose freely where to have equipment repaired, for example, and they should be free to change suppliers with ease. Everything else would be more of a burden than an advantage.
Q: A different, yet equally pressing burden on the industry is congestion. It has prompted some OEMs to focus more strongly on shorter trailers and truck bodies. How does Lecitrailer respond?
A: As you may know, Lecitrailer has very much spearheaded the development of specialised urban transport equipment like the so-called city trailers you see across southern Europe. Coming from such a strong position, we’re definitely planning to be part of the solution – especially since there is a veritable logistics revolution under way right now as shopping behaviour is shifting online.
Q: Final question: You have recently also designed a so-called Link Trailer, or B-double, for XPO Logistics. Tell us about the concept and how it came about?
A: That’s a development that started all the way back in 2000, when we started development together with our customers in Scandinavia. In 2006, the concept expanded to Denmark and the Netherlands, and it has now arrived in Spain. Having that flexibility to create unique designs on either end of the spectrum is what’s setting us apart – and XPO Logistics has recognised that.