“The perception of the (U.S.) customer is changing, but we still need some time,” Wang said. “We have to learn more about how to fit in the market and forge the right machine for the U.S. in order to make operators feel comfortable when driving our machines.”
While Shantui’s bulldozers are in more than 150 countries – many of them developing nations – they haven’t held much appeal for U.S. customers in the past because of their smaller size. Now, however, the company hopes to corner 10 percent of the North American bulldozer market in the next three to five years by changing the way it does business, at least in the United States.
First on the list of changes is building a bigger, better bulldozer – at a lower cost – that will meet the needs of U.S. customers.
“I think different end users have their own different objectives,” Wang said. “Many guys use our equipment, like some farmers and owners of small dozer and excavating businesses, and bigger contractors and some distributors who want to earn money by selling spare parts; so they have different objectives and purposes. I think right now we want to focus on creating a generally acceptable model for all of them. The operator is the first one to speak out about how the machine feels, so we want to make sure that they like them.”
Next up, Shantui America hopes to aggressively pursue contracts with big corporations and fleet management companies.
“We just want to lift up the volume (of sales) in a short time, and find ways to let everyone see our logo, and get more feedback on the equipment’s performance and how we can modify it (for U.S. customers),” Wang said. “So we’re going to cooperate with a big company of end users to make the brand known.”
The company is also joining major trade groups such as the Associated Equipment Distributors (AED) to benefit from the many networking and learning opportunities. Last April, Shantui representatives showcased three of the company’s largest hydraulic bulldozers at CONEXPO-CON/AGG, the construction industry’s major trade show in Las Vegas. They will return to Sin City in January to attend the AED CONDEX, once again spotlighting their biggest bulldozers.
Wang said that, if nothing else, the connections they expect to make at the expo will be invaluable.
“That’s very important because we’re doing sales work,” he said. “It’s a tremendous, tremendous help.”
With the U.S. holding 45 percent of the global market capacity for bulldozers, Wang credits other Chinese companies with paving the way for Shantui to make its move into the U.S. marketplace.
“The climate of the government originally created by other Chinese friends, like Sanyo and others, gave us a good chance to take advantage of (the U.S. marketplace),” he said. “Some of them did a good job. They offered good machines to U.S. customers. Their products are very nice, with lower pricing and with very good quality and very steady performance. The perception of the U.S. market is changing. They are making themselves more open to other countries.”
Right now, Shantui America employs fewer than 20 workers at its Miami office, all of whom are Chinese nationals, but Wang said the company plans to open another office, most likely in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, and to eventually start hiring American workers.
“Our planning on the next entry into this market is based on our own people and developing distribution with the dealers,” Wang said. “For the management and operation, (the parent company) wants to get the best performance while lowering the cost… Of course, we want to focus on our own people. When the volume goes up, we’re going to do a manufacturing plant here to assemble our machines in the United States. In that way, it’s inevitable that we have to hire local people here to avoid any communication gaps.”
Ultimately, Wang said Shantui wants to be a part of making “America great again.”
“In 2016, the new president, Mr. Trump, highlighted the need for major investments in U.S. infrastructure projects – many things like highways, bridges, airports and hospitals,” Wang said. “We hope to contribute to the building of the new North America.”