Small and medium-sized enterprises in the commercial vehicle industry, trailers, bodies and buses area
Manufacturers of trailers, bodies and buses are organized in the VDA’s Manufacturer Group II. Although it primarily comprises small and medium-sized enterprises, this subsegment of the automotive industry generates an annual turnover in excess of 9 billion euros and employs more than 32,700 people in its core workforces. The commercial vehicle industry stands for rising employment figures and, with approximately 190,000 employees, occupies an important position in the German economy. Three quarters of the sector’s personnel are accounted for by companies with fewer than 500 employees. They generate more than half of the sector’s total turnover. Small and medium-sized enterprises are thus the backbone of this sector. Whereas there is a tendency for small and medium-sized companies in particular to concentrate on the domestic national and European market, many larger companies also have a broad international presence. Companies are confronting the increasing challenges first and foremost with innovation, flexibility, new ideas and individual approaches to problem-solving.
The varied, frequently very individual customer requirements in the transport and logistics market require the most diverse product and transport solutions. The challenge is to take account of a multitude of requirements, such as the type of goods and loading facilities, maximum cargo space utilization both in terms of volume and payload, measures for securing the cargo, as well as special regional and legal features. In addition to functionality and quality, the products must, of course, also be affordable. The flexibility and imagination with which companies respond to the various needs and increasingly stringent requirements, setting pan-European and global standards in the process, are impressive. Finding the appropriate solution to every conceivable transport task and every intended purpose is the recurring challenge that the companies of the trailer and body industry have successfully confronted for many decades, notwithstanding increasing international competition.
The challenges are to be found not least in the changing legal environment as well as tougher legislative and customer requirements. Above all, the focus is on the goals of safety, climate protection and environmental friendliness, life-cycle costs, payload optimization and weight reduction.
One of the critical reasons for the industry’s enduring success is its rigorous research and development work, where the German trailer and body manufacturers have made a name for themselves as Europe’s quality and innovation champions. In no other country is such a pronounced technology and quality mentality to be found in the trailer and body industry, together with innovative ideas that feed as quickly as possible into production, as in Germany. Research and development are constantly spawning new innovative products.
No other means of transport has developed so radically in recent years as the commercial vehicle, and with it bodies and trailers. Today’s vehicles are a world apart from the traditional image as an efficient but environmentally and technically unambitious “work horse”. The majority of small and medium-sized enterprises will to a large extent already have been in family hands for several generations. It is new products and innovative solutions that enable them to prevail in nternational markets. The particular distinguishing characteristic of small and medium-sized enterprises is that they have very strong regional roots and represent stable, long-standing business relationships, reliability and trust, frequently over a period of generations. The product variety is therefore reflected in the sector’s eclectic company structure. This combination means that both small and large have every chance in future of operating successfully in their respective markets.