The "Swiss Army Knife" Of Trucks - A Closer Look
Construction Equipment Distribution magazine is published by the Associated Equipment Distributors, a nonprofit trade association founded in 1919, whose membership is primarily comprised of the leading equipment dealerships and rental companies in the U.S. and Canada. AED membership also includes equipment manufacturers and industry-service firms. CED magazine has been published continuously since 1920. Associated Equipment Distributors
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SECTION: A Closer Look

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The "Swiss Army Knife" Of Trucks

Written By: Mary Seaman

Article Date: 09-01-2005
Copyright(C) 2008 Associated Equipment Distributors. All Rights Reserved.

Unimog's versatility is a good fit for the construction equipment industry.

Although Unimog is a name that may be unfamiliar to the construction equipment distribution market, with its versatility and profitability, it's garnering the attention of equipment dealers across the country.

"It's a new concept in North America but one that makes a lot of sense from the financial and operational aspects of it," says Bob McTernan, general manager of Unimog North America.

Unimog is part of the Freightliner family of brands, which is owned by DaimlerChrysler. Europe is well acquainted with the Unimog; it's been a part of the European market for more than 50 years. Unimogs are built in Germany by Mercedes-Benz and were first introduced to the North American market in 2003. More than 350,000 have been produced since the early 1950s.

Unimog NA, based in Portland, Ore., is establishing a distribution organization in the United States and Canada that will include construction equipment dealers, along with the current network of Freightliner, Sterling and Western Star truck dealers, and American LaFrance dealers.

What Is A Unimog?

The Unimog U500 can be described in one word: versatile. It can handle the harshest terrain and is ideal for a multitude of applications including construction, utility, and fire-fighting. It's also ideal for use by municipalities because it can handle so many tasks.

"The concept is like a ‘Swiss army knife'," says McTernan, "where the handle has everything in one complete package. Unimog has one chassis and a variety of available implements."

The Unimog is unique in that it is a chassis that can accept various attachments. Equipment such as aerial lifts, augers and hydraulic tools can be operated using the Unimog factory-installed hydraulic systems and controls.

Unimog NA produces the chassis, and implements are available from outside suppliers to customize it to specific applications. The implement suppliers have been carefully chosen to allow users to design their own unique Unimogs, and some equipment dealers may already represent some of them, such as Sweepster, Bradco, and Altec. As with most equipment industry OEMs, the attachments are approved for use by Unimog NA.

"This product is popular with municipalities because the cities can add a mower, a sweeper and street cleaning implement to the truck chassis," says McTernan, "which means the city can get a variety of uses out of one truck and save money."

The most popular implements for the construction industry are knuckleboom cranes, winches and hydraulic tools, all which operate off the Unimog's systems. As many as three hydraulic systems can be ordered on it. When one implement is taken off, the next one can plug right in - there's no need for aftermarket modifications.

"It's a high-quality highly capable chassis that customers can do more with," says McTernan.

The Unimog has full-time four-wheel drive, excellent maneuverability, 18.5 inches of ground clearance and travel speeds to 70 mph.

Not only is it versatile, but it can save the customer money. A city in the Midwest researched how much it cost to purchase a dump truck with a plow and spreader, tractor and mower and a truck-mounted street sweeper; the cost was $329,000. A Unimog with the same size implements is $297,000 - a savings of $32,000.

"We focus on what the customer has to do," says McTernan. "Many times these guys have been doing their jobs for a long time and they've fine-tuned their requirements to know what they want. We work with implement providers to meet the customer's requirements."

Unimog Is Looking For Dealers

Unimog NA is looking for AED dealers that provide the full range of sales, parts and service the company provides through its truck dealers.

"We're looking for AED equipment dealers because like truck dealers, they have a close connection to our primary markets," says McTernan. "We're looking for a complementary relationship."

Unimog has a complete staff available to assist dealers, including a full time parts person, a six-person sales staff, an applications engineer and an entire service staff.

According to McTernan, dealers should consider becoming Unimog dealers because of the profit opportunity in the chassis, in the implements and on the financing side - and because they already have the customer base.

Although Unimog is looking for dealers, McTernan says they will not add an overabundance of dealers.

"We expect volumes to be lower than those in medium and heavy trucks, but the profit opportunity is appropriate for that more-limited volume," says McTernan. "We don't set dealers up to compete with each other and we give them significant territories.

"If a dealer is already selling a customer yellow iron, they likely have an application where Unimog would fit. It's not like they have to develop new customers and a new market, it's an incremental opportunity in many cases."

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