Profile: Simply Trucks

By: Cameron Officer, Photography by: Cameron Officer

Simply Trucks Simply Trucks
Simply Trucks Simply Trucks’ Wayne Wardell Simply Trucks
Simply Trucks Trailer Station is a successful component of the Simply Trucks business Simply Trucks
Simply Trucks Simply Trucks is based on Shands Road in Christchurch Simply Trucks

While Simply Trucks’ customer base remains as loyal as ever, the ever-changing needs of Christchurch mean that, for owner Wayne Wardell, the modern light commercial market is both very different — and yet strangely familiar.

Simply Trucks' dealer principal Wayne Wardell does some long division at the top of a note pad with a biro: I've just asked him how long he's been in business and — as a rather effective demonstration of 'a long time' probably sufficing — it takes him a few seconds to tote it all up.

"Thirty-two years," comes the answer. "I started as Wayne Wardell Motors back in the early '80s and moved to the Simply Trucks brand in 1998. But I've been in the industry since 1972.

"We started with light commercials initially, but the demand for bigger commercials grew as we grew really. So by the early to mid-1990s we were trading in bigger trucks — the two- to six-tonne range was where we played during that time."

While importing from Japan was the norm 20 years ago, these days the game has changed again. To a certain extent Wardell feels the business — located in bustling Shands Road, Hornby in Christchurch — has actually come full-circle.

"What with the current import regulations, prices have gone up considerably. This is fine of course, as all late-model trucks are fantastic, by and large. But the off-shoot of this is that what was a ready market for trucks in the $20,000 to $30,000 bracket all of a sudden jumps up to the $35,000-plus bracket. At that level you're dealing with bigger entities which traditionally buy brand new vehicles before they consider used ones.

"Interestingly though, this works well for us as we're dealing with a lot of repeat customers who want smaller gear. We're back to dealing in light commercials again. Ex-lease equipment is really sought after and, thankfully, we have a ready supply and a loyal customer base too," says Wardell.

Everything on the yard at Simply Trucks is fully serviced: oil, filters, leak-down/compression checks — the works, regardless of kilometres on the odometer. It's part of the Simply Trucks groom and service process underlining Wardell's belief in high-kilometre, late-model utes being good for many miles more after they leave the yard.

"The kilometres on the clock don't even enter into it for us. Every vehicle we put on our yard has a full service the moment it arrives regardless. This really is essential because at the end of the day I want to be able to stand behind everything we've got for sale.

"Generally speaking, even a high-kilometre truck will be a good buy. Right now there's an ex-lease Ford Ranger out on the yard with 263,000km on it. But in reality, the engine will be good for half a million: no worries at all. That's the strength of modern engineering."

I ask Wardell if, with the shift back to more light commercial stock in recent times, his customer base has likewise shifted from bigger corporate entities to smaller tradies. As he reminds me though, this is Christchurch, where the lines have been blurred somewhat.

"I'm fortunate in that I deal with a lot of the same people I've been selling to for years," he says. "But the nature of their businesses has changed a lot.

"You might have a plumber, or a concrete placer, or a roofing contractor who — five years ago — had two guys working for him. Well, now he could have 15 guys working for him. As a result his needs have changed and he finds he has to spend money adding to his fleet. He'll probably have a project manager that needs a ute fast, and that's where the Christchurch market has accelerated."

And speaking of accelerating, the area around Simply Trucks' modern yard is changing daily. Over the road stands a prime slice of land — 200-odd hectares in fact — about to be transformed into another component of a new, modern, post-quake Christchurch that seems to be spreading forever westward. According to Wardell (who welcomes the increased traffic any such development will no doubt bring), the business and retail park — to be developed by Calder Stewart — will be the biggest single commercial build in the South Island once it gets underway in the coming months.

If any of the subbies contracted on site require a tandem trailer, they'll only need to look across the road to the Simply Trucks premises too, as for the last seven years Wardell has been operating Trailer Station as well, selling and hiring trailers of all shapes and sizes, but usually with a commercial application in mind.

"Our trailers for sale are all manufactured by Pinto in Auckland, and it actually makes for a sound arm to the business," he says. "We have the option to add a tandem trailer to any ute or light truck purchase, which provides a great one-stop-shop opportunity for buyers."

Giving local customers what they want is key to Simply Trucks' success it seems, and that's the recipe Wardell and his team will be sticking with to ensure further growth in the future.

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