Mid-life crisis helps propel Peterbilt sales

Niche truck importer is building its sales of American Peterbilt trucks on the back of drivers facing a mid-life crisis

By Ruza Zivkusic | August 29, 2011

A niche Australian truck importer is building its sales of American Peterbilt trucks on the back of veteran truck drivers going through a mid-life crisis.

Truckworks Australia managing director Lyndon Reynolds has been importing trucks from the US for the past two years and converts them for Australian conditions. He says his niche market consists of middle-aged enthusiasts who "dream about driving American trucks".

Based in Adelaide, the team of eight mechanics imports 25 trucks each year and spends 300 hours on each truck converting them. Reynolds describes the trucks as "hot rods", which are worth $400,000.

"It is suited for middle-aged guys who have done the hard yards and want to spoil themselves – most truckies don’t have the time to enjoy their Harley Davidson or their hot rod because they’re out on the road so when you buy a Peterbilt it becomes their hot rod and they’re working with it and it’s earning them money," he says.

"I call it the truckie’s mid-life crisis. Instead of going and buying a Harley Davidson like all 40 to 50-year-old guys want to do, this truck is the Harley Davidson of trucks."

Reynolds recently sold one during the Perth Truck and Trailer Show to a walk-in customer.

"We make the trucks that are truly the Rolls-Royce of trucks; they’re very expensive and we don’t aim for the fleets, we aim for the guy that wants to spoil himself," he says.

"If you pull one of these into a company’s fleet, you’d have a mass-walkout because you’d only have one driver driving it."

Reynolds says the Peterbilts are suited for Australia’s harsh conditions. After investing $4 million in his business, he is just now starting to see a return.

"We’ve invested over $1.5 million in research and development; getting a truck, testing it, and getting approval from the Federal Government. It’s been the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life because of bureaucracy," he says.

"If I had my time again I’d have to think twice before I do it. Usually in business I can make things happen but when you deal with government the more you yell and scream the slower they go.

While the global financial crisis tore gaping holes in the bottom lines of many businesses, Reynolds says his operation has not been significantly affected.

"If you want a Peterbilt, there’s nothing in the world that’s going to stop you. Where there’s a will there’s a want and because we only do 25 [trucks] a year we’re not so much affected by the highs and lows of the economic cycle," he says.

Truckworks Australia was formed in 1990, specialising in heavy vehicle towing, recovery and repairs. Reynolds says it is mainly the younger drivers who damage trucks due to a lack of experience.

"The Peterbilt side of the business is where we want to push, with the crash repair we’re sitting and waiting for a crash to happen and you can’t control it," he says.

"We don’t know when it’s going to happen and where it will happen but with Peterbilt you bring the trucks in from America, you convert them and put them up for sale, it’s more able to forecast our work supply.

"It’s a nice little business that caters especially for that mid-life crisis."

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