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Clash of the Continentals: Scania vs Benz

There’s a brawl brewing at the big end of the cab-over truck business as Mercedes-Benz and Scania shape up to rattle Volvo’s reign as Australia’s top-selling European brand. They’ll have their work cut out but you can bet they won’t be pulling any punches.


Last year, Mercedes-Benz and Scania together delivered 1816 units to Australia’s heavy-duty truck market.

By comparison, Volvo alone left both in its wake with a commanding 1845 trucks, easily maintaining the Swedish giant’s mantle as Australia’s leading supplier of cab-overs to the heavy-duty market.

Nonetheless, both Benz and ‘the other Swede’ are rightly pleased with their respective results in 2017. And fair enough!

For Scania, it was a record year, cracking the 1000 units barrier (1004 to be exact) for the first time in its Australian history and in the process, capping the steady growth which over the past four or five years has seen the brand emerge from mediocrity into a swathe of new operations.

As for Mercedes-Benz, 2017 was the first year with the bulk of its entirely new model range on sale and no doubt about it, Benz boffins were absolutely delighted with the delivery of 813 trucks. So they should be, given the result was close to double the previous year’s performance with the superseded Actros.

Yet anyone thinking Mercedes-Benz or Scania will be content to rest on the laurels of 2017, or simply strive to repeat last year’s performance will need to think again. With the energy and excitement of entirely new models fuelling their futures, neither company is hiding a fierce intention to make the most of a buoyant heavy-duty market where across the board, cab-overs now outsell conventionals by around two to one.

Still, aspirations and reality aren’t always cut from the same cloth and both brands know as well as any that in a fiercely competitive heavy-duty market dominated by such powerful adversaries as Volvo and Kenworth, it’ll take much more than the hype of a new range of trucks to climb to higher rungs on the ladder.

Even so, square in the crosshairs of both Mercedes-Benz and Scania is Volvo, and for good reason. Sure, neither Benz nor Scania will be shy about approaching Kenworth K200 customers but when it comes to continental cab-overs, there’s no bigger or more commercially attractive target than the super-Swede.

By the same measure though, it would be ridiculously naïve and incredibly ignorant to think Volvo will be quaking in its boots or washing the white flag at the threat of increased competition from aspiring assailants.

Indeed, you can take it as gospel that Volvo didn’t reach its current prominence by adopting a casual or lackadaisical approach to competitors. Be in no doubt, any assault on the throne will be met with the ruthless response of a company with an exceptionally successful and locally produced model range, a substantially upgraded service network, and decades of fierce determination.

Likewise, only the foolish would think Volvo isn’t also working on a few new product developments of its own, not least a bigger bunk for the flagship FH range.

All that said though, Benz and Scania are busy sharpening the axes and after recent road tests of B-double combinations from both brands, there’s no doubt the cutting edge is sharper than ever before.

As our technical editor Steve Brooks reveals,  the trucks in the recent spotlight were the Mercedes-Benz 2653 and from Scania, the G500 and R620 models from its newly introduced ‘New Truck Generation’.

All combinations were loaded near to full weight with the Benz run northbound on the Hume between Melbourne and Sydney, and little more than a week later, the two Scanias run from Sydney to Melbourne.

Given the different directions, performance and fuel comparisons wouldn’t be much value, so each has been evaluated on its own merits on the day. The one thing they share, however, is the ability to be more competitive than at any time in their modern histories in this country.

Yes, they admit it won’t be easy knocking Volvo off its mantle as the best-selling European truck in the Australian market, and likewise, they concede it won’t happen overnight. They will, however, be giving it their best shot and more to the point, the new trucks provide plenty of firepower.

All up, the next few years will be fascinating to watch and as things stand at the moment, the only sure bet is that heavy-duty truck operators of all persuasions will be spoilt for choice with trucks which, from all appearances, are smarter, stronger, more efficient, more comfortable, better built, and possibly more reliable and better supported than ever before.

Bring it on!

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