Where to UD Trucks?

In the wake of what is one of the most significant announcements in trucking in many years – namely, the fact Isuzu Trucks is to buy UD Trucks (part of the Volvo Group) – the public relations business carries on merrily with both Volvo and UD locally telling tales how well they did in 2019 and how 2020 looks; with only the briefest mention of the BIG DEAL.


In December 2019 the Volvo Group and Isuzu Motors signed a non-binding Memorandum of Understanding with ‘the intent to form a strategic alliance within commercial vehicles in order to capture the opportunities in the ongoing transformation of the industry’.

In a first step, the intention is to establish a global technology partnership and to create a stronger, combined heavy-duty truck business for Isuzu Motors and UD Trucks in Japan and across international markets. This will entail transferring ownership of the complete UD Trucks business globally from the Volvo Group to Isuzu Motors in order to accelerate growth by leveraging greater volumes and complementary capabilities.

A key word in this is ‘non-binding’ but even so speculation is rife as to what it actually means in the massively changing world of trucking . . .and if UD Trucks is simply going tobe chewed to the bone Piranha style by Isuzu.

Meanwhile both UD Trucks and Volvo Trucks were positive about their activities in South Africa in 2019 with UD entering a new era with the appointment of a new managing director.  Filip Van den Heede has replaced Gert Swanepoel, who retired after 32 years with the company.

IMG_9348 (2)
Gert Swanepoel (left) hands over to Filip van den Heede

“It has been an incredible journey with UD Trucks and it is truly the people and the relationships with customers and dealers that have made it worthwhile,” said Swanepoel.  “It has been a privilege to be a part of the brand’s growth and development throughout the years, and I am excited about the future of UD Trucks in the region.”

Van den Heede has been involved in the trucking industry and the Volvo Group for the past 22 years and was previously Vice President of Vehicle Sales and Marketing for UD Trucks International Sales, which included responsibility for the southern African market. He has extensive experience in all aspects of the business, including aftermarket, business development, new product introductions and sales.

“Last year was an extraordinary year for UD Trucks Southern Africa, as we launched three new model ranges in the region,” says Van den Heede.  “Our customers now have access to an extensive model line-up, from medium to extra heavy commercial vehicles, backed by the company’s 58 years of experience in the local industry.

“We have one of the most extensive dealer networks in the region, with 36 dealers and service agents in South Africa and 30 in other southern African countries such as Angola, Malawi, Mozambique, Mauritius, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe. As UD Trucks, we believe it comes down to the basics of supporting our customers every step of the way. To be there with professional service, parts and sales support throughout a truck’s lifecycle, and to keep on adding value to our customers’ businesses.”

Marketing Director, Rory Schulz said the performance of the commercial vehicle market was certainly erratic during 2019, as local economic conditions continued to be less than favourable.

“Despite all the odds, the total commercial vehicle market remained resilient and logged year-on-year growth of 2,1% at the end of 2019. However, transport operators continue to face severe cost pressures, with fluctuating diesel prices, overall safety of drivers and trucks, as well as instances of civil unrest, hitting many operations hard in the past year.”

Schulz said that the Southern Africa truck market is quite unique as on the one hand there are customers who want their fleets to have highly developed technologies and systems, while others are happy to stick to the very basics.

“The region is somewhat of a dichotomy as you can drive by hi-tech logistical warehouses that support large international corporations, while at the same time trying to avoid potholes on the road.  As a manufacturer, we must take these two worlds into consideration when introducing new products and technologies,” says Schulz.


Volvo Trucks Southern Africa ended 2019 as the top-selling extra heavy truck manufacturer in South Africa having sold 3 206 units in South Africa and other African countries during last year, giving them a 23,2% market share of the segment.

The first place for Volvo Trucks is an improvement of its position in 2018, when the company finished in third position – a 4,8% growth in market share.

Volvo Trucks Southern Africa has assembly facilities in Durban and currently has four ranges available: the FH16, FH, FM and FMX.  The company is also responsible for export to countries such as Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Marcus Hörberg

“Our customers and our staff are the main driving force behind everything we do,” said Marcus Hörberg, vice president of Volvo Group Southern Africa.  “We believe the quality of our products, our staff, service, parts and support, played a central role in increasing our market share.  We will now work even harder to keep the trust our fleet owners have placed in us.”

Hörberg said that in order to efficiently support the growing Volvo Trucks vehicle parc, the company will invest in additional facilities and service dealers. The company will also train and develop additional technicians to keep service levels up to the highest standards.

At the end of the fourth quarter in 2019, Volvo Trucks was also the top-ranked truck manufacturer in terms of overall customer satisfaction, according to the latest report released by Data Track, a local research company that analyses customer experiences of more than 37 500 truck and fleet operators in South Africa.

New Haval H2 goes auto

You know the name, you have seen the cars on the road but, if asked, probably struggle to get that name to emerge from the deepest recesses of your mind – yet, between 2017 and the end of last year, had sold 7 525 units locally.

The name is Haval, the passenger vehicle division of Great Wall Motors (GWM) of China.


Like Korean automakers Hyundai and Kia, GWM and Haval have grown from being cheap car manufacturers feeding a voracious local market to being significant players on the global stage with subsidiary companies in dozens of countries.

Locally, what began as a distributorship has morphed into being one of those wholly-owned (by GWM) subsidiaries with 55 dealers across South Africa and its immediate neighbours with a further five likely to be appointed during 2020.

At the launch of the new Haval H2, the company announced it had recently opened an assembly plant in Russia and even hinted there might be one on the cards for South Africa to service the continent as public confidence in the young brand turns to increased product volumes.

H2_FL_Lifestyle (13)

The original H2, launched in 2017, notched up a modest 34 sales in June of that year but, now sits at average monthly sales of 400 a month – reaching 464 in December last year.

With a local parts stockholding exceeding R100-million and a first pick rate of 97%, the local company is confident it has completed the step up from ‘cheap Chinese’ to be able to stand proudly against other contenders in the classes in which it competes.

The H2, which competes in small SUV segment has been quite extensively revised and now features a six-speed automatic transmission for the first time. This outsourced unit is essentially the same as found in both Hyundai and Kia products.


The 1,5-litre turbo-charged petrol engine at the heart of the H2 is an in-house Haval design and the car itself is the result of input from the several R&D centres the company has in various parts of the world.

From the outside there are subtle changes to the grille and front end, while the new car is lower and the visual effect from front to rear is smoother, more modern and beginning to grow a character of its own.


Inside, fit and finish is good quality and the dashboard layout is modern, neat and uncluttered with all operational switches and buttons clearly marked and within easy reach. The centre console adopts piano-lacquer materials along with atmosphere lighting.

H2_FL_Modderfontein_Blue (38)

The seats are at an average hip-height, which provides easy entry and exit, so there is no awkward climbing as is the case with some other SUVs.

Behind the wheel, the comfortable upright driving position provides enhanced vision of the road ahead, while the 3D, fashionable and multi-functional dashboard shows essential driving information, including instantaneous fuel consumption, remaining driving mileage and the latest technical entertainment options.

The multi-function steering wheel bristles with controls for audio, page display on the screen and dash, cruise controls and the hands-free Bluetooth telephone.


The new Haval H2 incorporates advanced technology for the 4-cylinder 1,5-litre turbo-charged enginethat provides 105 kW maximum power output and 202 Nm peak torque output.

The safety features on the new H2 include six crash bags, a Tyre Pressure Monitoring System, keyless entry, featuring advanced radio frequency identification technology and anti-lock braking – the H2 having received a 5-start ANCAP crash test rating.

The launch drive was held in high winds and heavy rain so somewhat skewed perceptions but I cam away impressed with the handling (in the conditions), lack of body roll, stability in the face of the strong Cape winds.

For me, the automatic gearbox was a bit ‘grabby’ and constantly hunting for gears. To be fair my car had only 300 km on the clock and colleagues said they were impressed with the smoothness of the auto both in up and downshifts.

Haval use the catchphrase ‘drive to impress’ . . . and it did!


Pricing 2019 new H2
Configuration (versions) 2WD   2WD  
  City Luxury City Luxury
Retail R269 900,00 R294 900,00 R304 900,00 R329 900,00


Backdraft Racing supports SA Endurance Series

Motor racing is all about passion and Backdraft Racing – based in Prospecton, Durban – has taken this to a new level by loaning 10 race-ready Roadsters to new teams for the 2020 SA Endurance Racing Series.

That’s right! Ten cars loaned out for the 2020 season for free.

Teams from the United Kingdom, one from Sweden and one from Dubai are adding some international flair to the highly competitive series.

Tony Martin
Tony Martin

Backdraft Racing is headed up by former South African Driver’s Champion and Daytona 24-Hour winner, Tony Martin who says: “Everything I have today has come from racing so this idea is both a way to give something back to the sport I love and to add a new dimension to the SA Endurance Racing series.

“It is not a gimmick and the cars are all prepared to within a couple of horsepower of each other and are identical in every other way. They are extremely competitive, not only against each other but will be able to challenge other marques involved in the series.”

Loan race cars in the Backdraft Racing workshop
Loan race cars in the Backdraft Racing workshop.

The South African Endurance Racing series consists of six events at various circuits around the country and are all 4-hour races except for the final at Killarney, Cape Town in December that will be a marathon 7-hour event.

“We have loaned cars to teams capable of competing at this level of racing,” says Martin, “and all we are asking in return is they guarantee to be ready and present for both practice and the race at each event in the series.”

The Backdraft Roadsters are open-top racers powered by a 300 hp Lexus V8 engine driving the rear wheels through a BMW gearbox and BMW limited slip differential.

“They are raw, powerful and purpose-built race cars,” says Martin. “There are no electronic aids such as traction control or anti-lock braking. They are true driver’s cars.”

The 'office'
The ‘office’.

While the competing teams are free to bring their own sponsors on board to cover the general running costs, they will not be allowed to make any modification to the Roadsters beyond basic race-day and handling setup.

We will have a fully kitted parts transporter at each race with a full range of spares available. Backdraft will have their own ‘policeman’ – Brian Clifton – to assist competitors and to ensure compliance to the rules where necessary. Nothing on the engine, transmission or brakes can be changed, in fact no performance enhancing modifications will be allowed.

Competing in the series are a wide range of marques including Lamborghini, Ferrari and Porsche alongside sports cars such as Ginetta, Liege, Nash and Juno.

One of the loan cars ready for delivery
Ready for delivery.

In all, Backdraft Racing will have at least 13 cars for the 2020 season with established pairing Brian Martin and Trevor Graham continuing to campaign their easily recognizable red Roadster, while a completely new car is being readied for Tony Martin and Mike McLoughlin. Added to this we are excited that Clare Vale will be competing in another Backdraft albeit not in the production series.

McLoughlin holds the outright lap record at Dezzi Raceway, KZN in his sprint setup Roadster, having taken that away from Jaki Scheckter who was driving Greg Parton’s Lamborghini Huracan at the time.

Current KZN Sports Car Champion, Duncan dos Reis, will be one of the drivers of the new Roadsters alongside Damon Parker while well-known Historic driver Colin Ellison will partner with Peter Jenkins.

The UK team consists of Mark Owens with Italian Jean-Marie Gabbiani as co-driver while Thomas Kummerling and his son Jacob will be the Swedish entry. Rudi Patior and A N Other our Dubai importers will also be competing.  Brothers Gary and Nigel Richardson will form another team as will Graham and Tania du Toit.

Another top KZN driver, Steve Clark still has to announce his co-driver as does Cape Town’s Brian Morgan.

“The spectacle of these 10 Backdraft Roadsters racing each other and the rest of the field is going to add a whole new dimension to the series this year,” enthuses Martin. “Within the series itself there will be a Roadster class – so if anyone has a roadster and wants to come and join the fun, they are more than welcome.”

The first of the current Endurance Series was a 6-hour held at the Phakisa Freeway near Welkom in the Free State on February 23, 2013. The events grew in stature and size over time as their popularity increased and, in 2017 National Championship status was granted by Motorsport South Africa.  The first South African National Endurance Racing Champion was crowned together with an Index of Performance National Champion. Ironically this honour befell a Zimbabwean, Darren Winterboer.  He managed to pull off both Championships with solid performances throughout the year.

For 2020, the season-opener is a 4-hour race at Aldo Scribante near Port Elizabeth on March 21.

W Series gets F1 dates

W Series racing – the all-women single-seater formula – heads for a bigger stage this year with the USA and Mexico races scheduled alongside the Formula 1  race at each venue on the weekend.

W Series’ USA race will take place at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, on Saturday, October 24 and W Series’ Mexico race will take place at Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez in the capital, Mexico City, on Saturday, October 31.

Tasmin Pepper

The two all-new W Series races – with South Africa’s Tasmin Pepper as part of the field –  will form an exciting championship-deciding ‘double header’, held on consecutive weekends, and will be rounds seven and eight of the eight-race 2020 W Series championship.

The full 2020 W Series championship calendar

Race 1 St Petersburg, Russia May 30th
Race 2 Anderstorp, Sweden June 13th
Race 3 Monza, Italy June 27th
Race 4 Norisring, Germany July 11th
Race 5 Brands Hatch, UK August 23rd
Race 6 Assen, Netherlands September 5th
Race 7 Austin, USA October 24th
Race 8 Mexico City, Mexico October 31st
Catherine Bond Muir

Catherine Bond Muir (Chief Executive Officer, W Series) says: “We at W Series are absolutely delighted that, in only our second season, our championship has been welcomed by Formula 1 and we are utterly thrilled  the final two races of the 2020 W Series season will therefore take place as part of the Formula 1 platform.

“Our two all-new races will follow six races on the DTM platform, making a very varied, extremely exciting and truly international eight-race championship, in eight countries across the globe. I’m particularly pleased that W Series will now stage races outside Europe, and the USA and Mexico are of course both very important new territories for us.


“Interest in and enthusiasm for W Series was enormous in our first season, 2019, among media and fans alike, and the addition of two all-new W Series races on the Formula 1 platform will inevitably increase that enthusiasm and interest.

“Commercially, too, following the successful recent announcement of W Series’ new multi-year sponsor-partnership with ROKiT Phones, the fact W Series will be even bigger and even better in 2020 than it was in 2019 will make the return on investment for our future sponsor-partners better and bigger, too.”

Dave Ryan (Racing Director, W Series) added: “Following the six W Series races that will be run in 2020 alongside DTM, who remain an excellent partner of ours, W Series’ two new Formula 1 support races in Austin and Mexico City will cap what looks set to be a brilliant second season for us.

“The Circuit of the Americas is a superb racetrack. Sector one is particularly spectacular, featuring an extremely steep uphill run into Turn One, and I’m sure that the W Series drivers will find it exciting yet challenging.

“Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez is also a fantastic circuit, older than the Circuit of the Americas of course but impressively updated, having hosted the Mexican Grand Prix since the race was reintroduced to the Formula 1 calendar in 2015 but having previously been the venue for Mexican Grands Prix as long ago as 1963.”

Ross Brawn

Ross Brawn (Managing Director, Motorsport at Formula 1) says: “We are delighted to welcome W Series to two such spectacular events of the 2020 FIA Formula 1 World Championship such as those in Austin and Mexico City.

“In just one year, W Series has contributed significantly to increasing interest in the topic of diversity and inclusion in motor sport.

“We are convinced our sport must offer equal opportunities for men and women to compete together – it is no coincidence that improving the diversity of the F1 grid by supporting and promoting driver talent from under-represented backgrounds is one of our strategic objectives.

“The ability for the great crowds who traditionally attend the Austin and Mexico City Grands Prix to see these talented female drivers up close will definitely further raise the awareness of the importance of inclusion and diversity in motor sport.”


Seeing around corners

Looking well ahead is a vital part of safer driving but, what if drivers could ‘see’ over the brow of the hill or around the next corner.

Technology moves at such speed these days most of us are inured to changes in that landscape but that is not stopping people from trying to make life safer for all of us – and Ford now has a system that does allow ‘seeing around the corner’.

Thanks to Ford’s new connected car technology, Local Hazard Information (LHI) marks a significant step on the journey towards a connected transport infrastructure by helping drivers prepare for and potentially avoid dangers on the road.


When drivers ahead encounter sudden tailbacks, accidents or spilled loads, the driver behind – and possibly out of sight – is given advance warning. This could also apply to everything from freak hailstorms, to sudden flooding or even landslides.

The triggers for the system come from what is happening in the cars ahead. It could be that crash bags have been activated, hazard warning lights are flashing or windscreen wipers are in operation.


Previous traffic incident alert systems have relied on drivers to input information in order to generate alerts, whereas LHI works autonomously, without the need for any driver interaction, to generate information and issue warnings.

Hazards are only displayed – via the dashboard display – if the incident is likely to impact on the driver’s journey. LHI is designed to be more beneficial to drivers than hazard information from current radio broadcasting systems, which often deliver notifications not relevant to them.

1842665_Ford Puma2364-2163

Already featuring as standard and free of charge for the first year on the new Ford Puma, LHI technology is being rolled out across more than 80% of Ford’s passenger vehicle line-up. Crucially, the benefit will not be limited only to those travelling in Ford vehicles. Information sent can be used to alert drivers of other manufacturers’ vehicles, and vice-versa.

“What makes Local Hazard Information different is it is the cars that are connected – via the Internet of Things. There is no reliance on third party apps. This is a significant step forward. Warnings are specific, relevant and tailored to try to help improve your specific journey,” says Joerg Beyer, executive director, Engineering, Ford of Europe

Sensors monitor activities including emergency braking, fog lights and traction control to detect adverse weather or road conditions. Data from these activities is then computed to determine the hazard location and whether a traffic incident has occurred.

The vehicle automatically provides updates through a secure connection to ‘the cloud’ using the Ford Pass Connect modem. Ford’s technology partner HERE Technologies operates the central cloud-based platform that collates information from multiple vehicle brands, governed by a business-to-business agreement.

1842671_Ford Puma2440-2195-2198

The more cars are connected to the network, the greater the efficiency of the system. When many vehicles generate the same warning, others in the vicinity receive incident information from the cloud via the cellular network, enabling drivers to reduce speed or take appropriate action.

Additional information is sourced from public authority incident databases and traffic reports to provide drivers with further advance warnings including approaching vehicles driving on the wrong side of the carriageway, animals or people in the road ahead, and roadworks.


Land Cruiser upspecced

Toyota’s hardy terrain-tamer Land Cruiser 200 – the flagship of the range – gains additional feel-good specification for 2020.

(Photo by Cornel van Heerden)

The ‘LC200’ in VX-R guise has been outfitted with a 14-speaker JBL Premium sound system and Rear Seat Entertainment (RSE) system. The rear-seat entertainment comprises two 11,6-inch screens (29 cm) with multimedia inputs located in the rear console (along with the four-zone climate control).


The other specification items remain unchanged, and include a raft of comfort and convenience features along with Toyota Safety Sense. Safety Sense provides Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Departure Assist and Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross Traffic Alert.

The advanced Multi-Terrain System with Crawl Control and surround-view cameras, makes light work of any off-road terrain. The acclaimed KDSS suspension control and impressive approach and departure angles; have helped the Land Cruiser 200 earn the accolade of Master of Africa.

(Photo by Cornel van Heerden)

The LC 200 is powered by a 4,5-litre turbodiesel V8 engine, delivering 195 kW and 650 Nm from a low 1 600 r/min (up to 2 600 r/min), which is transmitted to all four wheels via a 6-speed automatic transmission.

Six exterior colours are available, Sparkling Black Pearl has replaced Attitude Black (offering enhanced depth and pearlescent qualities), whilst Midnight Blue and Sunset Dune have been discontinued. Customers have the option of either Black or Beige interior trim on the VX-R grade.

Each Land Cruiser 200 is sold with a 9-service/90 000 km service plan, with intervals set at 10 000 km or 12 months. A 3-year/100 000 km warranty is included.

 Model Line-up and Pricing

Land Cruiser 200 4.5D V8 GX-R*                  – R 1 086 200

Land Cruiser 200 4.5D V8 VX-R Black          – R 1 510 100

Land Cruiser 200 4.5D V8 VX-R Beige          – R 1 510 100

*The utilitarian GX-R grade continues unaltered.

Nissan gets the force

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES), held in Las Vegas every January, always produces a fascinating array of product from the truly bizarre to the wholly impractical – along with some very clever innovations.

One that stood out this year is the Nissan technology dubbed e-4ORCE. Nissan is elevating the performance capability of electric vehicles with its new twin-motor all-wheel-control technology that provides instant torque to all four wheels to deliver balanced, predictable power and handling on par with many premium sports cars.


The ‘e’ represents Nissan’s technologies enabled by a 100% electric motor drive system, while ‘4ORCE’, pronounced ‘force’, evokes physical power and energy with ‘4’ standing for the all-wheel control driving capability.

“The e-4ORCE twin-motor all-wheel control technology offers precise handling and stability, which gives drivers greater confidence and even more excitement than ever before,” says Takao Asami, Nissan’s senior vice president of research and advanced engineering.


“This technology enables excellent cornering performance and traction on slippery surfaces and comfortable ride for all passengers.” The technology was born from lessons learned in the development of the Nissan GT-R’s ATTESA E-TS torque split system and the Nissan Patrol’s intelligent 4X4 system.

Engineers developed the e-4ORCE technology to specifically manage electric vehicle power output and braking performance to be smooth and stable. Unparalleled ride comfort is the result of the e-4ORCE technology’s ability to minimize vehicle pitch and dive.

This is accomplished by employing regenerative braking from both front and rear motors, making city stop-and-go traffic less jostling. Similarly, on rough, bumpy roads and when accelerating, motor control is optimized to maintain ride comfort by minimizing irregular movement. e-4ORCE increases driver confidence by faithfully tracing the driver’s intended line thanks to ultra-high-precision motor and brake control.


With the confidence to handle such a variety of road surfaces, even for novice drivers on slippery surfaces, driving becomes more enjoyable.

Nissan displayed its zero-emission crossover Ariya Concept — which features e-4ORCE — at CES this year.