“A businessman once said, ‘A business succeeds, not because it is long established or because it is big, but because there are men and women in it who live it, sleep it, dream it, and build great future plans for it.’” When Heinrich Lategan quotes the US hotel magnate John Willard Marriott, the moment takes on special significance. The words could have come from him; he has understood and internalized their meaning so well. Today the company SAC Trucks is one of the most successful truck specialists in the South African Independent Aftermarket, despite the fact that the rapid rise began only ten years ago – with DT Spare Parts. This is the story of a successful partnership.
Heinrich Lategan is a thought leader. When the passionate motorsport fan speaks, he does so quietly and thoughtfully. His gaze sometimes wanders into the distance, while his mind appears to be constantly working as new ideas develop and take shape. Ralf Nädtke recognised the potential as he stepped through the door of SAC Trucks in Centurion, South Africa, in 2005. As Director Sales Overseas with Diesel Technic, he then negotiated the first large stock order of spare parts of the brand DT Spare Parts for SAC Trucks, with a volume of several hundred thousand Euros. The foundation was laid for a successful partnership.
“Very quickly, you find out that to repair a truck with new original parts will cost you more than the truck!” Heinrich Lategan speaks from experience. After the founding of SAC Trucks, he and his team of mechanics overhauled the trucks of a Scandinavian manufacturer for their “second lives” in South Africa. However, when this company came under new management after several years, it abruptly terminated the collaboration. Without warning, Lategan and the still young company faced ruin. He feared for dozens of jobs, but did not give up. In DT Spare Parts, SAC Trucks found an alternative equivalent in quality to original spare parts for trucks, and in Diesel Technic a strong partner that shared the vision of the South African company. “If you do something, you must do it properly and not offer something which you cannot really support. For us, one of the big advantages of the DT Spare Parts dealership is that Diesel Technic offers the range of parts. And in the end I still think the availability is the most important thing – to be able to deliver the part. With DT Spare Parts we get the range as well as the quality.”
With DT Spare Parts, it is the quality of the complete product range that generates trust, and not merely that of a single spare part. With sophisticated products and professional services, SAC Trucks scores with DT Spare Parts in South Africa; in a market with many new models and in which not all customers are aware of the advantages of the Independent Aftermarket. A barometer of trends here is, in particular, the exhibitions at which the team of SAC Trucks promotes the subject. “We want to be the leader in the aftermarket, so we must also lead the marketing side of it.”
The way upwards was however not free of challenges for SAC Trucks. “Diesel Technic assisted us a lot with the logistics. We had absolutely no idea how to do this thing. We did not know how to do imports, we did not have licences. We were mechanics, so we had a lot of assistance from Diesel Technic at that time, especially from ms Hannelore Koop. And from then on we learnt all the time how to use our own imagination and to come up with our own solutions. I think it has been very good that we were mechanic people before. Our advantage then was, and I think today still is, that we have a technical background and we know how to use the parts.”
SAC Trucks and Diesel Technic know that, in a partnership, each partner benefits from the strengths of the other. The intensive and open exchange of information between the companies is invaluable to both. At SAC Trucks, Neels Nel is the contact person exclusively responsible for the brand DT Spare Parts. The competent suggestions of this specialist from South Africa flow directly back into the development and contribute to the optimization of products of the brand DT Spare Parts, thus helping partners and their end customers.
The concept has paid off for many years. The first delivery with spare parts of the brand DT Spare Parts was followed by numerous others. SAC Trucks grew. Very soon, the available space was no longer sufficient. “You need to grow with the business, you need to grow with the customer’s demand for credit and you need to grow with the infrastructure”, Heinrich Lategan explained the customer-oriented recipe for the success of SAC Trucks. Today the company has nine locations in South Africa; more are to follow. “We plan to open more branches. We are not planning to stop.” The strategy for the coming years includes the sale of spare parts for light commercial vehicles and buses. The complete range of DT Spare Parts already offers all the required spare parts suitable for these purposes.
It is not only DT Spare Parts which plays a central role in the growth strategy of SAC Trucks; their own team of employees is also decisive. “If you want the company to be average, you employ average people. If you want the company to be like in your dreams, you must employ crazy people.” Heinrich Lategan can hardly conceal his pride when he speaks of his hand-picked colleagues. “We all have the same vision and the same culture. And that is the important thing. To put that team together. And it wasn’t actually difficult - because we had the right people. It was maybe some good luck that in the evenings, when we were thinking about this, we found the right solution to put the right person in the right place. And they believe, they don’t want to be average, they want to excel and they want to pull the dream. You must have the whole team to think the same way.”
With this team, SAC Trucks is pursuing the same goals as Diesel Technic: One-Stop-Shopping with the best possible service for each individual customer. For SAC Trucks, this alsomeans, besides the trade in parts, an increasing advisory function upon the purchase of spare parts. For Diesel Technic it means, in addition to the high level of availability and quality, the continuous extension of the complete range and future-oriented solutions. For years, SAC Trucks has relied on the numerous sales and marketing services that are offered to DT distribution partners.
The success proves them both right. For their outstanding development, in 2015 SAC Trucks was awarded the status of Premium-Partner in the corporate headquarters of Diesel Technic in Germany.
“If I could have my life over again, there is one thing I would change. I have thought about this many, many times. Instead of becoming a DT distributor in 2005, I would have done it in 1995,” Heinrich Lategan admits in retrospect. As a strong partner, the premium brand in the Independent Aftermarket will in future continue to support SAC Trucks in the realization of their visions.