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New boss for Freightliner in Australia/NZ

Young gun: 33-year-old trucking industry executive Stephen Downes has a decade’s experience at PACCAR under his belt, and will soon be in charge of Daimler’s Freightliner brand.

Former Kenworth/DAF exec Downes to join Daimler Truck and Bus as Freightliner chief

5 Dec 2014

FREIGHTLINER Trucks Australia has named Stephen Downes as its incoming general manager, responsible for the Australian and New Zealand markets.

Part of the Daimler Truck and Bus commercial vehicles division of Mercedes-Benz Australia/Pacific, Freightliner has been without a general manager since June, when Kristi Walker unexpectedly returned to the United States for family reasons after only two months in the job.

Since then, national sales senior manager Rod West has been the key figure behind the Freightliner brand.

Mr Downes, 33, takes the reins on January 5, bringing some 10 years’ experience in the Australian truck industry to the position after moving up through the ranks at PACCAR Australia.

Earlier this year he took on the job of general sales manager for Kenworth, having spent the previous four years as general manager of DAF Trucks, where he is credited with taking sales volume and market share to record levels.

Earlier in his career at PACCAR, Mr Downes served as a regional sales manager for DAF and held a variety of roles with Kenworth, including production supervisor, senior manufacturing engineer and service liaison engineer.

In announcing the appointment this week, Daimler Truck and Bus managing director Daniel Whitehead said: “Stephen has excellent knowledge of the Australian and New Zealand truck market. Importantly, he is home-grown and therefore able to immediately relate to our customers when discussing product requirements and applications.

“Stephen has both an engineering degree and a commerce degree, and when you combine those with the management and sales experience he has gained over the last decade he is the ideal person to further increase Freightliner’s market share.

“We are elated that a man of Stephen’s experience, knowledge and expertise has come on board at Freightliner and is a great reflection on our brand and its standing in the market,” he said.

Ms Walker relocated to Australia in April after Mercedes-Benz Australia/Pacific restructured its operations. She was previously manager of sales operations for Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA), and also served as DTNA’s Australia/Pacific market manager for Freightliner.

Among the changes that took effect on March 1, the commercial vehicles division was split into two separate business units: Daimler Truck and Bus, which includes brands such as Freightliner and Mitsubishi Fuso, headed by Mr Whitehead and Mercedes-Benz Vans, which became the responsibility of former general manager of Mercedes-Benz Vans Diane Tarr.

Under the restructure, the managing director of each business unit now reports directly to Daimler AG – or DTNA, as is the case with commercial vehicles – and also became responsible for service and parts, and sales and marketing, in their division.

Mr Whitehead, who took over from Kolja Rebstock, reports to DTNA senior vice-president of sales and marketing Richard Howard.

The latest VFACTS figures show that Freightliner sales are down 19.4 per cent this year, with 650 units sold to the end of November compared to 806 over the same period last year.

Freightliner currently has a 2.3 per cent share of the heavy commercial vehicle market in Australia.

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