Nichiyu Forklifts has enjoyed its best year in Australia for some time, with 2008 sales almost double that of 2007.
A key contributor to Nichiyu’s strong performance is its expanded distribution network, which now numbers 15 dealers throughout Australia.
Nichiyu’s new Premium Dealer network provides supplementary sales, hire and service resources in key industrial locations in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide, with further dealers to be appointed during 2009.
Over the past year, Nichiyu has also established supply agreements with a number of national forklift hire and other equipment distributors.
Nichiyu’s sales manager, Craig Coles, said: “Despite the fact that Nichiyu is the original and largest battery-electric forklift manufacturer in Japan, a number of name changes over the years in Australia means the brand is not as well known as it deserves to be.
“Increasing our direct sales presence has improved our awareness and is paying off in increased sales.”
Commenting on the growth of the battery-electric materials handling equipment market, which increased by about 10% in 2008, Mr Coles said: “With the recent surge in fuel prices, we certainly found more gas truck users contemplating the switch to battery-electric forklifts. The average forklift burns through over $5,000 a year in LPG, and much more for petrol and diesel models. A battery-electric is normally more expensive than a gas truck, but the price basically includes the cost of the first five years fuel!
“With gas trucks incurring operating costs of more than $5,000 a year, it doesn’t take long for the battery-electric solution to come out on top, even with fuel prices returning to more sensible levels. Environmental and OH&S concerns are also driving the switch to battery-electric materials handling solutions for many users. Accordingly we expect battery-electrics to maintain their strong sales performance, even if the overall forklift market contracts somewhat,” he said.
“Given that the global financial crisis has yet to really bite, it is inevitable that capital equipment purchases will fall during 2009, but to what extent is anyone’s guess. The Australian forklift market dropped by around 25% in October when the severity of the economic slowdown became apparent, but bounced back again in November to be just 8% down on the same time last year. Australia’s economy has always shown great resilience during other tough economic times. My own feeling is that while the overall market may contract 15 to 20%, it will bounce back strongly once the current economic situation settles down,” he said.
The recent devaluation of the Australian dollar will mean higher prices for forklift users in 2009.
“Since the Aussie dollar has fallen from 98 US cents to the low 60s, importers are now paying up to 30% more for purchases in US dollars. The situation is even worse for importers purchasing stock in Japanese Yen, which has dropped more than 40% from a high of 105 to a low of 55 in recent weeks,” explained Mr Coles.
“The Australian forklift market is one of the most competitive in the world. Already operating on slim margins, importers will have little choice but to pass on the increased costs to customers.
“We are hopeful the government’s economic initiatives will help stabilise the Australian economy, and return the Australian dollar to a realistic and sustainable value of around 75-85 US cents. This would allow pricing to return to pre-crisis levels,” he said.