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Komatsu drops Tusk brand

Thursday, 21 January 2010 ( #445 ) - Rolling Meadows, IL, United States
A US affiliate of Komatsu Ltd plans to discontinue sales of Tusk-brand forklifts on 31 July and focus on a single-brand single-channel distribution strategy for its Komatsu forklifts. Komatsu Forklift USA LLC president Akira Yamakawa announced the decision this week, saying "the difficult but necessary strategic decision" was driven by "the prolonged tough economic conditions". The Rolling Meadows-based operation is stepping away from separate channels of distribution for the Tusk and Komatsu forklift brands "to focus all of our resources on our core Komatsu brand", Yamakawa says. No uniquely designed Tusk-only forklift models exist. Marketing for the Komatsu and Tusk brands in the US applies to a line of more than 120 electric and internal combustion engine forklift models with capacities ranging from 3,000-35,000 pounds (1,350-15,750 kg). Support for "our loyal Tusk customers" continues, says Jeff Powell, senior vice president of sales and marketing. "After July 2010, Tusk customers will continue to be able to receive parts, service and support on all Tusk lift trucks through our extensive network of Komatsu-brand forklift dealers throughout North America and South America". The marketing initiative lasted one decade. "Komatsu Forklift has been using a dual-branding and distribution strategy since its acquisition of the Kalmar AC brand in 1999," says Keith Allmandinger, senior marketing manager. "The Kalmar AC brand was changed to the Tusk brand in 2005 and, for the most part, Kalmar AC dealers became Tusk dealers". Separately, the organisation handles Komatsu and Tusk distribution, sales and marketing functions, "although the products are virtually the same and built in the same manufacturing facilities" with larger sizes imported, Allmandinger notes. Komatsu Forklift USA is in the process of studying and evaluating labour needs and what changes are needed with elimination of the Tusk line. For the western hemisphere, Komatsu has about 150 locations under control of 100 distributors. In North America, Tusk has about 65 locations managed through 33 dealerships, with nine of those dealers also representing Komatsu. Tusk exhibited its product line at the ProMat trade shows in 2009 and 2007. Komatsu Forklift USA in October named Kenco Logistic Services LLC of Chattanooga, Tennessee to provide third-party logistics in Newberry, South Carolina for the forklift manufacturing operation that Komatsu is relocating about 200 miles (320 km) from Covington, Georgia ( News #435). The Newberry manufacturing operation employs about 150, has been in operation since 2001 and is adding forklift production to its mix of material handling and construction equipment under the Komatsu brand. Komatsu Forklift USA announced plans for the move in March but in July acknowledged that economic conditions would delay the Newberry startup to April 2010 instead of October 2009, although the change would not interrupt product flow to dealers or customers ( News #421). "April 2010 is still the target date for the start of forklift production" in Newberry, Allmandinger confirms. The Tusk discontinuation will not impact on the move. The Covington plant produced Komatsu- and Tusk-brand cushion- and pneumatic-tyre forklifts with lifting capacities of 3,000-7,000 pounds (1,350-3,150 kg). Komatsu imports Komatsu- and Tusk-brand pneumatic-tyre forklifts of 8,000-35,000 pounds (3,600-15,750 kg) from a Komatsu factory in Tochigi, Japan. The Tusk discontinuation will not impact other Komatsu production sites in Japan at Oyama, Mooka or Jinan. Komatsu plans in South Carolina to continue building a majority of its North American-sold products. The parent Komatsu organization has manufactured forklifts since 1945. Komatsu Forklift USA began assembling units in the US in 1976, initially in La Mirada, California and moved manufacturing in 1995 to Georgia. Toyko-based Komatsu Ltd's regional subsidiary, Komatsu America Corp, oversees 12 equipment manufacturing, marketing, financing and distribution facilities-including the Newberry plant-and more than 30 corporate entities in the North American market including Komatsu Forklift USA.