(L-R) Bob Lemmer and John Callen
Two former senior employees of a Caterpillar forklift dealership in Wisconsin have launched a company to distribute Hytsu forklifts in the US.
Bob Lemmer and John Callen have opened Global Products, in Germantown, Wisconsin, to distribute the Chinese forklift brand in all US states, except Hawaii and Alaska, and in Canada on an "as is" basis. Germantown is about 160.9km from Chicago, Illinois.
Lemmer and Callen said the decision to leave secure positions and launch their own business was "very difficult". They parted amicably from their ex-employer.
"After working in a company, you see the ownership get healthier and wealthier. You are a highly paid employee but you start to think you could do better if you owned a company," Lemmar said.
Combined, Lemmer and Callen have more than 55 years’ experience in the US forklift industry.
Lemmer, ex-vice president of the forklift dealership, brings business management and finance expertise to Global Products while Callen contributes substantial spare parts management experience.
Global Products’ stockholders include management of Lemmer and Callen’s former employer.
The Wisconsin forklift dealership was a Caterpillar dealer, which became a "2B1C" (two brands one channel) dealer under a Mitsubishi Caterpillar Forklift America program. That prevented the dealership from representing Hytsu, something Lemmer had been investigating since 1999.
"We sold Hytsu hand trucks, but were unable to be a full-line Hytsu dealer after becoming a 2B1C dealer," Lemmar said.
Consequently, Lemmer launched Global Products with Callen.
Lemmer said Chinese manufacturers would put pressure on US forklift dealers.
"Remember what the Chinese product is. It’s very, very cost competitive. It’s very similar to Japanese forklifts in the 1960s and 1970s."
Callen said Global Products’ challenge was to promote the durability and reliability of the forklifts to dealers.
"Hytsu forklifts have many of the same components as other forklifts. For example, a Mitsubishi/Caterpillar engine, a ZAPI controller and German steel is used for mast production."
He said Global Products was working closely with Hytsu on stocking "high mortality" parts in its 2,000 square foot (185.8 square metre) Wisconsin warehouse.
"Some Japanese and Chinese forklift brands failed in the US because they can’t deliver parts within 24-38 hours. Obviously we want to close the gap." Callen said Global Products would work with forklift parts distributor Systems Material Handling (SMH) to obtain forklift parts.
Global Products’ goal for 2007 is to recruit 10 US dealers and sell 100 forklifts. Lemmer said Global Products would approach Komatsu dealers to add Hytsu’s products to their portfolios.
"Hytsu’s goal [in US] is to equal what Toyota and Nissan have done, in the next 15 years."