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A new era for Powerstar

Prepare for something entirely different from Powerstar… Known for its extra-heavy trucks that have been particularly successful in the mining and construction sectors, Powerstar has officially launched its new medium range of trucks. GAVIN MYERS meets the new Powerstar FT range.

No, your eyes are not deceiving you … you have seen the Powerstar FT3 and FT5 light- and medium-range trucks before. The basic vehicle was previously sold locally by Foton with little success. However, Ever Star Industries (ESI) will now offer them as it enters previously unchartered waters. Don’t be fooled, though, the vehicles are substantially revised and the company is well poised to fully service the needs of the segment.

Bob Wang, CEO for Powerstar’s local company, ESI, explains that, since Powerstar’s speciality lies on the heavy side of the vehicle spectrum, it was important for the company to take its time in selecting the right partner with which to introduce itself to the lighter end.

“We started this project three years ago, taking it step by step to bring the right, reliable truck to this market. We wanted to partner with a top-three Chinese company, that could offer a truck with the right spec and provide further development and expansion in the future,” he says.

Rodney Selesnick, senior head: sales and marketing, adds that the company is not hiding the fact that the FT is a Foton-based product…

“We could’ve gone with a cheaper, easier partner but we wanted the right partner. Our parent company in China has strong ties with Foton and there is no denying that this is a good product. It’s a solid truck that is now supported by a solid local brand and company,” he says.

Once the decision was made to partner with Foton, the two parties entered into discussions about supply and aftersales – something that, in addition to its knowledge of the local market, ESI understands very well.

It’s important to note at this point that Foton has no involvement in the vehicle locally. Sales, distribution and aftersales are all under the ESI umbrella. The FT range will be assembled alongside the well-known Powerstar VX and V3 vehicles at the ESI assembly plant in Pietermaritzburg, which is ISO 9001-certified.

While some of the vital specs include fitment of a 120-litre aluminium fuel tank; turning radius of just nine and 11 m (FT3 and FT5 respectively); and gross vehicle mass figures of 7 500 and 8 700 kg (respectively), how else have the Powerstar FT3 and FT5 (for three- and five-tonne, respectively) been crafted for the local market?

The first major point is the 3,8-litre, Euro-3 Cummins engine (115 kW at 2 600 r/min and 500 Nm between 1 200 and 1 900 r/min) and new ZF Ecolite six-speed gearbox.

“The vehicles have been both homologated and subjected to extensive testing with Cummins, to ensure the engine and drivetrain are working together properly,” Selesnick notes.

Importantly, the Powerstar FT has also been spec’d with a Wabco air-brake system (there is an auxiliary exhaust brake, too), while other detail components, like seals and rubbers, have also been changed. ESI has partnered with select bodybuilders to provide a turnkey solution and ensure that the bodies supplied are right for the vehicle.

“We want the vehicle to be reliable and to last, but still be affordable,” Wang comments.

While more than one-million units have been sold internationally since the base vehicle was originally developed by Foton in 2010, it was important for ESI to ensure the Powerstar FT range performs efficiently and effectively in South Africa.

“We know the truck works; we have two trucks permanently on test between Johannesburg and Durban, thereby assessing its durability over greater mileage parameters. We’ve also tested the units with a few customers who have returned promising results whilst operating the trucks at full capacity.

“However, we can never predict failures, because the applications, quality of drivers, and individual operations all vary. The plan is to now put the vehicles into a number of large fleets to see how they perform,” Selesnick affirms.

“Having experience with the bigger trucks has made it easier to introduce the smaller models,” he continues. “We know the local culture; we understand maximum uptime and strong aftersales service.” Each vehicle is sold with a two-year/unlimited mileage warranty. Service intervals are set at 15 000 km and the FT can be serviced at certified Powerstar FT dealerships.

As part of the ESI dealer network, Powerstar customers are supported with more than 30 service centres around the country and dedicated Powerstar sales executives at full dealerships, who ensure correct vehicle specification and a comprehensive aftersales support.

“The FT slogan ‘better built, better backed’, is our promise to our customers and we truly believe this new range of trucks will be very successful. We will also continue to assess a greater range of medium trucks for South Africa,” Wang concludes.

What do they think?

Taking delivery

SIBA84EC, specialists in the fast-moving consumer goods business, was one of the first recipients to take delivery of the new FT3 at the launch in Pietermaritzburg.

“The reason for purchasing the new FT3, is that our transport business is growing and we were looking for a vehicle that could fit our business needs. In terms of value of money, the proven aftersales, quality and reliability of Powerstar trucks made the decision easy. We look forward to partnering with a reputable OEM like Powerstar.”

Sibabalwe Mabandla, director of SIBA84EC

The customers

“We have purchased the Powerstar VX 2628 side tipper for the mining industry. It’s used for localised, short-distance transport and is very powerful with no technical problems to date. We are happy with the vehicle and are now looking at buying two of the Powerstar VX 2642s.

The FT is under consideration for new contracts with a dairy company.”

Richard Shongwe, Tsekoba Trading

“We’ve been running the Powerstar VX 2628 tipper for two years now, primarily hauling for the gold mines. The VX is running very well. We like the fact that this one came with a motor plan to 300 000 km, and our aftersales experience has been good. We’re planning on buying another one of the same model.

Powerstar is a reliable and robust product that meets our operational requirements. It offers the same high quality and standards as some of the European options, but at a much more affordable price.”

Cecil Letlotlo Senne and Patrick Ramotla, 

Setlamo Mining and Construction

My life has always revolved around anything with wheels and an engine. It doesn’t matter if its an old banger, the latest hot-hatch or a fancy 4×4 – any excuse is a good excuse to take it for a cruise, spank it at the track or go bundu-bashing (the mud-and-rocks-side-of-a-mountain type, not the exploring-Joburg’s-pavements type). Otherwise, chances are you’ll find me lying underneath one of my beloved toys or with my head buried in its engine bay, tinkering away.

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