Stéphane Hubert has been a member of the Executive Committee and Director of Customer Experience since 2017. He explains us the year 2020 and the trends of the market for 2021.
2020 has been particular in more ways than one. How do you analyze the evolution of elevation equipment markets over this period?
Before the health crisis took shape, we had already anticipated in 2020 a sunken year. The evolution of our markets is cyclical by nature. For various reasons (other than sanitary), we were coming to the end of an upward cycle. 2017, 2018, and 2019 had been extremely active years in almost all markets. Indeed, there was much renewal in the catalog of major equipment rental companies. It seemed natural that this growth would slow down. In the end, and despite this unprecedented crisis, which accentuated this downward trend, the balance sheet for the twelve months of 2020 is not so bad.
There was a very strong first-quarter worldwide, in line with the 2019 dynamics, followed by a sudden stop in the spring with the wide propagation of Covid-19, to start again in the summer. This momentum slowed down in the autumn, only to pick up very strongly in the last two months of the year. It is more of an accordion year than a bad year. On the other hand, the prime buyers of elevation equipment have shortened their order schedules to two or three months (instead of a period of six/eight months).
Do these trends apply to all continents?
No. There are significant disparities from one region or continent to another. First, there was a wave effect. The health crisis spread throughout the year, from East to West, successively affecting Asia/Pacific, the Middle East, and Europe, then North and South America, and finally Africa.
The Asian and Oceania markets held up very well and regained sustained dynamic in the spring, particularly in China. China is the only country to have maintained positive growth in 2020 for equipment purchases. A notable fact is that China has become this year the leading market (in volume) for elevation equipment. Also, Korea, Australia, and Japan have, to a lesser extent, held up very well and recorded sustained demand.
The Middle East (and Africa) region has been facing a structural decline in investments for several years. The health crisis has only reinforced this decline.
Europe (in the broadest sense of the term) has resisted much better than one might have imagined. France, Germany, Spain, Italy, and even the United Kingdom, have maintained high demand. The countries of the North (Scandinavia, the Netherlands) have marked a major halt.
Finally, after a classic first half-year, the North and South America region was affected by the epidemic. They are still affected today. Mexico, Brazil, and Chile entered a phase of worrying economic crisis.
More specifically, how did Haulotte manage to "navigate" through this chaotic year?
Our results followed the market trends mentioned above. However, the Haulotte Group’s overall annual activity held up well. First of all, our global presence, through our 21 international subsidiaries covering more than a hundred markets, enabled us to smooth business over the year and significantly reduce the impact of the pandemic.
The size of the Haulotte Group (2,000 employees), coupled with an agile governance model deployed for many years, has enabled us to navigate in a precise and reactive manner by always adapting to external conditions. Everywhere, we have been able to regulate our production and distribution networks, to efficiently implement health protocols, and to adjust the working methods and time of each of our employees. This crisis proved Haulotte’s solidity and adaptability in the face of complicated situations.
Finally, our capacity for innovation was a key driver, with the inauguration of our new international headquarters in France H3 (Haulotte Higher Headquarters) at the end of 2020; the launch of the second model in the PULSEO range (100% electric) at the end of the year; the HS15 & 18 E electric all-terrain scissors lifts.
For 2021, what do you see as the global market perspective for elevation equipment?
The vaccination campaign announced and implemented around the world must take effect in the coming months. Therefore, we expect the first half of the year to continue to be calm. The second half of the year will be much more active.
In terms of global economic dynamics, the Asia/Pacific region, with the Chinese market in the lead, but also with Korea, Australia, Japan, and the European region to a second extent, are expected to drive global demand for elevation equipment upwards. 2022 should be a more solid year, with a return to growth expected in North and South America.
From a regulatory point of view, the exponential increase of Low Emission Zones (LEZ), mainly in Europe and Asia, should also boost demand for 100% non-polluting electrical equipment.
And for Haulotte specifically, what are the growth levers expected this year?
As far as the group is concerned, 2021 promises to be full of news. We’re building a new production unit in Changzhou, Jiangsu province in China (with an inauguration planned for 2022). This new 4.0 factory, reflecting Haulotte‘s ambition in Asia, will be constructed on an 80,000 m² site. The 44,000 m² building will considerably expand the range of locally produced telescopic and articulated platforms with production volumes multiplied by 4 or 5.
Also, Haulotte will offer at least three new 100% electric models this year. Scissor lifts, from the PULSEO, HS15 & 18 E range are already available. An access platform will be launched at the end of February, followed by new small scissor lifts planned for the end of the year. Now, all the Haulotte model machines are 100% electric and connected with embedded software. It allows a permanent dialogue between the Haulotte machine and the user, the repairer, the rental company, the fleet manager, etc.
In addition to this, we will be opening our training platform accessible to our customers: Haulotte Academy.
In conclusion, 2021 and 2022 will be a turning point in Haulotte’s approach to markets and customer demand: more attentive, more flexible, more responsive, and more innovative, further illustrating our motto: Let’s Dare Together!