Elon Holley, regional manager of ASC’s long-established outlet in Montgomery.
ASC Construction Equipment USA Inc. is still meeting customer needs in Alabama. However, the company’s customer base changed slightly in November 2011 and the marketplace is continuing to adapt to the change.
Last Nov. 15, ASC Construction Equipment sold distribution rights in Alabama for Volvo construction equipment to Cowin Equipment Co. Inc. The Alabama territory actually includes Alabama, plus two tiers of Mississippi counties along the Gulf Coast and the Florida panhandle region.
The business agreement was a strategic fit for both companies and generally had little impact on Volvo customers.
“It is a transaction that will allow us to continue our growth in the U.S. as well as to assist Volvo with enhancing its expansion of quality dealers in North America,” said Brad Stimmel, president of ASC Construction Equipment USA Inc., as the changeover went into effect.
The company, which is headquartered in Charlotte, N.C., still has 12 dealership locations across the southeast.
One effect of the switch in Volvo dealerships is lingering confusion about whether ASC still is selling construction equipment in Alabama. The clarifying answer: It is. ASC’s Alabama inventory includes Bomag compactors, Sandvik top hammer drills, KoneCrane lifting equipment and used construction equipment, plus lots of attachments.
What ASC is not selling in the territory is new Volvo equipment. That is clearly evident on the ASC Construction home Web site, where Alabama is not found among the listed states in which ASC represents Volvo — Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and eastern Tennessee. The disappearance of Alabama from the list has contributed to some customers incorrectly assuming the company has no presence in the state whatsoever.
“We still have a large group of customers that we have done business with over the years, customers who have typically been used equipment buyers,” said Elon Holley, regional manager of ASC’s long-established outlet in Montgomery. “Having the customer base that we’ve had and which has been solid for us over the years, we still have many opportunities to market all brands of used equipment.”
ASC’s presence in Alabama prior to November was significant. The company had established a nationally winning Volvo product support team and Alabama units were part of the largest articulated truck Volvo distributorship in North America. This tradition of excellence as a Volvo dealer introduced ASC to many contractors in the state. The customers can continue to look to ASC for construction equipment needs beyond new Volvo machinery.
Case in point: the Alabama Department of Transportation. It knows ASC is still around. This summer, DOT ordered a new Bomag roller from the Montgomery dealership, which still serves Bomag customers in the northern two-thirds of the state.
“I look at my current Volvo inventory to see what qualifies as used equipment and I see over 100 pieces, 115 to be exact,” said Holley. “One hundred and fifteen pieces of equipment that are available for re-sell all over the United States.”
The inventory can include used equipment that is acquired by ASC dealerships in North and South Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee, a dealership linkage that assures a plentiful supply of a wide variety of all brands of machinery.
“We stand ready to assist customers with any used equipment needs they have—articulated trucks, motor graders, wheel loaders, excavators, or whatever,” Holley said.
“We still have many rental customers who have rental contracts in place for used equipment,” he added. “With today’s market conditions, people are looking at rentals and the purchase of used equipment as a cost-effective option to purchasing new. So this is a good time to be doing what we are doing. It is a customer-driven market with contractors who are looking for the most cost-effective way that they can get production. Used equipment and rented equipment are excellent ways to achieve that.”
One former and continuing customer, Alabama Sand & Gravel Inc., has for 5 years looked to ASC for new, used and leased/rented equipment. Located in Billingsley, the mining operation depends principally on Volvo equipment to produce its metallurgical materials.
David Nau, who became Billingsley plant manager 2 ½ years ago, has worked with Holley to meet the plant’s equipment needs. The mining company currently is renting a Volvo A30D articulated truck carrying a 7,000-gal. water tank, one of 11 trucks in its fleet, and a used Volvo motorgrader.
“We’ve leased numerous A40 trucks and L220 loaders from ASC. We rented an A40D truck for nearly two years,” Nau said, adding he expects the business relationship with ASC to continue. “The only thing we can’t do is call them when we are looking at new equipment. Renting or leasing, we can still call on them.”
Alabama Sand & Gravel is a wholly owned subsidiary of Globe Specialty Metals, which is one of the world’s largest producers of silicon metal and silicon-based specialty alloys. The Billingsley, Ala., quartzite mine is one of four manufacturing operations in the United States.
Holley has never managed a business situation quite comparable to this one at ASC in Alabama, he acknowledged. “It’s a new stance for me.”
But he has a wealth of experience in the industry to draw upon as he guides the transition to a new business model. Holley has worked in construction equipment for 35 years, from retailing positions to manufacturer’s sales representative. He actually began his career in the Holley family’s Link-Belt dealership in Alabama.
“I know we have an opportunity to grow this business. I have been there growing a business when we grew the family-owned business,” Holley said, looking back at his roots. “I am excited about the customer acceptance of what ASC is doing in this marketplace today.”
The switchover of new Volvo distribution rights from ASC to Cowin went smoothly from Holley’s point of view. Cowin absorbed most of the employees in the former ASC locations around the state and hardly a bump in service or sales was encountered. After all, Holley noted, “Both ASC and Cowin have a vested interest in making sure customers have a smooth transition.”
Still, some confusion ensued as contractors saw the ASC name disappear in all but the Montgomery location. The strength of the relationship with its customers is making all the difference for ASC Equipment as it repositions itself in the Alabama market.
“We are blessed that we have a supportive base of customers, who we have engaged with for years and have a personal relationship with. They understand that we are still an option for them if their needs do not fall in new Volvo equipment. They continue to call and give us opportunities for their business,” Holley said.
In a perverse way, the scaling back of the Volvo line from new to used has refined the approach of ASC to its customers, according to Holley.
“It gives us a chance to focus on the used equipment market specifically where in the past your attention was divided between new and used equipment in the state. And it is happening at a good time with the market the way it is.”
On the other hand, the focus is different when the brand of equipment isn’t Volvo. ASC Equipment has new and used equipment with Bomag, KoneCrane and Sandvik labels. KoneCrane’s lifting product is a staple in mills across the state and Sandvik is a recent addition to the ASC lineup of equipment.
“Sandvik’s down-the-hole drills and top-hammer drills have great application in the state of Alabama when you consider the amount of hard rock located between Montgomery and Birmingham on north,” Holley said. “Sandvik is a serious player in the market and has sold many units in that region in the last five or six years. It is real exciting for us.”
He noted that redirecting efforts into drills has been something new for ASC, but the company has many qualified technical people who have spent considerable time in that area of construction machinery.
“We have the expertise.”
With the situation now stabilized, Holley said the company will begin to expand again, with additional staffing to meet the needs of the company’s reconfigured presence in the state.
“We are looking to increase staffing in Alabama for drills, used equipment, and used rental machines. And ASC is now poised to add product support personnel so we can continue to support customers in a manner that they have come to expect from ASC.
“As market conditions improve, we will continue to add people to support our customers as they get busier.”