The integrated power of Wielton Group

The Wielton Group is currently the third largest semi-trailer, trailer and truck body manufacturer in Europe and 10th in the world. The company, which is building its global position on a multi-brand basis, has steadily expanded its brand portfolio in recent years, entering new markets and adding more new products to its offer. Although it has been in existence for 27 years, collectively, all of its companies are almost 550 years old. What is their history?

The last eight years have been a period of extremely dynamic growth for the Wielton Group. A successively implemented strategy based on geographical diversification and the potential of acquired brands has ensured that the Group has maintained its strong position among the world’s top ten producers.

Developing such a strong position has been possible thanks to the renowned brands that have joined and strengthened the Group. A turning point in history came in 2015 when the Group acquired the leading Italian brands Viberti and Cardi, as well as the French company Fruehauf. Thus, it began to build an international structure.

In May 2017, the Group acquired the German company Langendorf, thereby expanding its product range with, among other things, specialised vehicles for the transport of glass and precast concrete. The acquisition of Lawrence David in September 2018 allowed the Group to enrich its offer with further unique vehicles, such as home delivery bodies and pillarless curtainsider semi-trailers. In turn, the acquisition of Guillén made it possible to expand the Group’s operations into another important market – Spain.

The Wielton Group’s brands have been present in local markets for several decades to more than a century. During this time, they have developed a strong portfolio consisting of specialised vehicles and products tailored to the needs of customers and the relevant market. In total, the Wielton Group brands are almost 550 years old and all have a very interesting history of origin.

“We decided that a multi-brand strategy, based on locally recognisable brands, would allow us to operate successfully in many countries and expand our business into new markets,” said Wielton Group Chairman, Paweł Szataniak.

“Thanks to the consistently implemented strategy, the Group is today present in almost all of Europe. For us, the acquired companies are first and foremost business partners. As we look for common synergies, it is crucial for us to ensure their autonomy and dynamic development. To this end, we are jointly implementing new investments and expanding the product portfolio of the brands. The strong position of the individual companies is for us a guarantee of success and further development for the entire Wielton Group.”

Wielton – 27 years of Polish innovation
Wielton has travelled a bumpy road to becoming Europe’s leading semi-trailer and trailer manufacturer. The company was founded in 1996 in Wieluń, a small Polish town. The first owners were Ryszard Prozner and Krzysztof Tylkowski, who started in an automotive workshop before moving on to modernising semi-trailers years later. This knowledge and experience allowed them to start their semi-trailer production.

In 2002, sales of semi-trailers and trailers of the Wielton brand began. The focus was on successively expanding the factory and storage space. The production plant was equipped with modern technologies such as lasers and industrial robots. In 2004 the joint stock company Wielton S.A. was established. However, over the years, when the company started to manufacture more products and catch the wind in its sails, the owners felt capital constraints and the further development of the company became questionable. At this point, help came from Paweł and Mariusz Szataniak, who had in the past also been involved in the reconstruction and improvement of semi-trailers.

Thus, in 2006, Wielton S.A. gained new owners, and the following year the company debuted on the Stock Exchange. An important stage in the company’s development was the modernisation of the facilities for assembling tipper bodies. The year 2009 saw the establishment of the Wielton AGRO brand, which focuses on the production of agricultural trailers. Over the following years, the Wieluń-based producer grew in strength and developed rapidly. In 2016, the opening of Wielton’s Research and Development Centre took place, which has the only full-vehicle semi-trailer testing station in Poland and the third in Europe.

Over time, Wielton became a Group with five production centres: in Poland, France, the UK, Germany and Spain, as well as an assembly plant in Italy. The Group continues to grow and strengthen its position in the European and global markets by establishing further production, sales, and technology companies. It currently employs around 3,600 people.

French Fruehauf – the story of an idea
In 1914, August Fruehauf, together with Otto Neumann, his long-time colleague and friend, created a vehicle that changed the face of world transportation. They converted, at the request of a customer, his recently purchased Model T Ford so that he could transport a sailboat with it. The vehicle could easily carry more weight and was also more manoeuvrable. It proved to be a hit with most local US companies, who saw this solution as an opportunity to really save time and money.

In 1916, August already had single and double-axle trailers and semi-trailers on offer. Orders started coming in at such an intensity that August founded in 1918 his first company, the Fruehauf Trailer Company. Two years later, the company’s turnover had reached one million dollars, and 10 years later it was one of the largest international companies: it had nine production sites and 88 branches worldwide. The company’s innovative approach to transport allowed it to quickly launch its first vans, revolutionary suspension and pneumatic lift, but also the first refrigerators, cisterns, tippers and sea containers.

Fruehauf vehicles did not appear in Europe until 1944 with the Allied landing in Normandy. The American military used these vehicles until the end of the war as an effective way of resupplying soldiers at the front. The semi-trailers left on the old continent were purchased by Raoul Massardy, who took charge of their further sale. As interest grew and correspondingly increased customs duties, the first assembly plant for vehicles imported from the US was built in 1946 in cooperation with the American Fruehauf Trailer Company. In 1958, an ultra-modern production facility was built in Auxerre, which in 1975 employed 2,000 people and produced 700 vehicles and 800 containers per month. For more than eight years now, Fruehauf has been part of the Wielton Group and has continued its growth with a focus on innovative products and production automation.

The 50-year history of British Lawrence David
Lawrence David was founded in 1973 by Lawrence Marshall in a rented barrack in the Peterborough area. It quickly gained a reputation for quality and prospective design and construction thinking. In 1978, the company bought back an eight-acre manufacturing facility with 12 stations. This tripled the company’s production capacity. Its head office was moved to St Peters House in 1982, and a year later a paint facility was built and additional production stations were put into operation.

In 1985, the Roscope production facility was established. Another 10 production stations were built in Morley Way, which allowed for the optimal use of this location. Five years later, the business expanded into repairs and Advance Body Repairs was founded to repair trailers of all brands. In 2000, Lawrence Marshall retired, handing over control of the day-to-day operations of the company to his son, Laurence. In 2003, the company purchased land adjacent to Morley Way, which was converted into the new company headquarters. Three loading platform assembly stations were also created.

The Roscope plant was moved to a new location in Kettering in 2005, which resulted in a double increase in production capacity, and in 2009 the company began to repair and service of loading platforms. In the following years, plants were purchased, which doubled the company’s existing production capacity and the product range expanded to include vans and commercial vehicles. In 2018, Lawrence David Ltd became part of the Wielton Group and the following year introduced the Wielton chassis to the British transport market. The company is currently in the process of robotising and automating production and digitalising the business. This year, the company is celebrating Lawrence David’s 50th anniversary.

Over 130 years of German Langendorf development
Langendorf is a family company with over 130 years of experience, including over 70 years in the production of trailers. The company’s history began in 1898 when Heinz Langendorf founded a blacksmith’s workshop to start producing carriage wagons and vehicles for agriculture three years later.

In 1950, Langendorf built a factory hall in which he began producing agricultural trailers with pneumatic tyres two years later. The first produced vehicles were intended for the agricultural sector, and in the 1960s the production of specialised low-loader vehicles for the construction industry began. The company’s dynamic development was reflected in the introduction of further types of vehicles for the transport of prefabricated elements and glass.

The beginning of the 1970s started with the assembly of tippers with an aluminium box, in later years the assembly of trailers with a gutter box structure was launched. Langendorf has a modern production plant in Waltrop with an area of 60,000m2 and a network of 45 partner sites in Germany and abroad. In 2017, Langendorf joined the Wielton Group and in October 2020, Langendorf Poland was established. The company in Poland strengthens the Langendorf company and supports the competence center for niche low-volume vehicles in Waltrop, to which it reports directly.

Over 100 years of Italian Viberti tradition
In 1922 Candido Viberti began producing his first car models in a small workshop located on the outskirts of Turin. After a few years, Viberti decided to take the next step, founding his own company Candido Viberti in 1928. He also purchased an old plant that was dedicated to the production of tanks, buses, trailers, semi-trailers, special bodies, trolleybuses and trucks.

In 1932, Viberti linked its brand to trailers, which have been the company’s hallmark over the years. From that moment on, the plant experienced a period of unprecedented prosperity and continuous development. An important event in Viberti’s history was the acquisition of a company specialising in the manufacture of tanks. In 1937, the Italian manufacturer began serial production of trucks for the distribution of aviation fuel.

In 1940, Italy became involved in hostilities and Viberti was entrusted with the production of trailers with special containers for the transport of liquids and fuels for the army, navy and aviation. The outbreak of war, however, was not only a period of increased orders. The company was affected by the bombing, with heavy losses. However, consistency in action and the inclusion of new products, such as the three-axle articulated vehicle, contributed to the revival of the company’s business. In addition, a series of acquisitions made between 1952 and 1960 allowed Viberti to achieve a significant share of the national market and offer customers differentiated products.

The headquarters were also changed to a new location. An important historical event was the acquisition of the Viberti brand, in 2010, by Compagnia Italiana Rimorchi, which owns the Merker and Cardi brands. In 2015, the company became part of the Wielton Group, changing its name first to Italiana Rimorchi S.r.l. and then to the current Viberti Rimorchi S.r.l.

Development of Spanish Guillén over 130 years
The Guillén company was founded almost 130 years ago as a small workshop in Valencia. Its founder began manufacturing animal-drawn carts in 1895. The company grew very quickly, focusing on high quality, innovation, and closeness to its customers. It concentrated on diversifying its offer, specialising in bodywork assembly and offering a range of products and services related to goods transport. Specialised, artisanal, and personalised production was carried out until 2005, after which a more serialised production process began.

Over time, ‘Carrocerías L.I. Guillén’ produced bodywork for rigid trucks, semi-trailers, and even railway-road mobile containers. In the 1980s, the Valencian company embarked on a new project in collaboration with architect Fernando M. García Ordoñez. It used shipping containers as the basis for building prefabricated houses that could be transported by land, sea, or air and assembled anywhere in the world.

In 2005, Guillén underwent a significant change that influenced the future of the company. It introduced a curtain model representing a new dimension of quality. This was the result of a research and development process that lasted several years and led to an innovative and highly competitive product. The company also decided to change its production process from an individualised production system to a chain-based process. This change allowed the company to increase its operational efficiency and cost-effectiveness. Guillén has become a significant player in the semi-trailer market and has considerably improved its position in the industry.

One of the key factors in Guillén’s success has been its team, which has always maintained a close relationship with its customers, listening to their needs and offering personalised solutions. Today, together with the Wielton Group, the company continues to consolidate its position among Spain’s leading semi-trailer manufacturers. Attention to quality, innovation, and customer service has been the key to Guillén’s success and continuous growth for almost 130 years.

“Today Wielton is a completely different organisation than it was 27 years ago,” said Wielton Group CEO, Mariusz Golec.

“We are now an international Group, that is one of the leading semi-trailer manufacturers in Europe and employ almost 3,600 people. We are characterised by state-of-the-art R&D and robotised production, resulting in competitive products that customers trust. If we do not lose our ambition, in a dozen years we can become the leader in Europe and occupy leading positions worldwide, and the Wielton Group will be one of the most recognisable players in the industry. We will soon tell you about our plans for the coming years.”

New chapter in the history
In 2022, the Wielton Group began another chapter in its history – it started implementing a new strategy with a five-year outlook. The Group has embraced interesting directions for further development, based on continued expansion, modern products and innovative technologies. Publication of the strategy is scheduled for the second quarter of this year.

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