The history of DAF

While there was no doubt that OAF had certainly established a strong market tor its trucks In the Netherlands and the other Benelux countries its strategy as far as the wider export market was less convincing. Efforts to expand trucks sales in Europe were somewhat tentative and in the 1960s the company was arguably more interested in promoting its cars rather than trucks. However, by the early 1970s the company was taking steps to expand its market outside its traditional markets.

The tie up with International Harvester in 1972 was an indication that the management’s view of market expansion was changing. As far as DAF was concerned the link with the American company would enable it to take advantage of an established international sales network, with OAF trucks being marketed through dealers in Africa. Asia and Australia. However, the hoped for expansion in overseas sales failed to materialise and DAF began to look a little closer to home.

In 1973 the company established truck importing subsidianes in Britain and Germany with OAF Trucks (GB) Ltd being opened in Marlow. This proved to be a significant strategic move for the company, although perhaps a somewhat belated one as DAF trucks had been sold on the British market since 1966. The first models were the 1800 and 1900 series, and distribution was handled through two UK companies Ack worth Engineering Co Ltd in Yorkshire and the Chipping Scdbury Motor Company Ltd. The venture was not a resounding success although the 1800 tractor unit was well received but considered by many to be somewhat pricey.

DAF learned valuable lessons from its first venture in the UK and the company’s next approach was certainly more structured and in 1970 a commercial truck division of DAF Motors was established. At the time DAF Motors was handling sales and distribution of cars as well as trucks and as far as the UK market was concerned this strategy was not proving to be very effective. In 1973 the company finally took the decision to separate the two operations and DAF Trucks (GB) Ltd was created. With new premises and a new managing director came a new market strategy with the focus of its sales now being aimed at the top end of the heavy range. In addition a comprehensive after sales and service support network was also established. Market research had also revealed that the company did not need to make the entire range of DAF trucks available in the UK market. The aim was to promote those vehicles which would find favour with the UK operators and ensure that those models were fully» supported by high quality customer service.

Steady climb

DAF In no way took the UK market by storm as in 1971 only nine trucks were imported, the first of these being an FT 2000. This particular vehicle continued in operation until 1980 when it was bought back by the company for its heritage collection. Sales soon developed and the 1000th DAF was sold in the UK in July 1974. Pre production models were used on extensive field trials with some British operators and the 2206 went into full production in 1975. This was followed by the new 2300 and the 2800 series, and by 1979 the UK market had grown to become the single largest market tor OAF trucks outside the Netherlands. That year DAF sold 2300 trucks in the UK and had climbed to number two in the list of heavy vehicle importers, a marked success which had little to do with the strategic alliance with International Harvester.

By the end of the 1970s DAF had celebrated its 50th anniversary, made the decision to cease trailer production, sold the car operation to Volvo and had successfully expanded its export business. A new parts and distribution centre had been opened in Eindhoven and in 1984 the firm celebrated another production landmark with the completion of the 250.000th truck chassis.

However, the 1980s were to prove to be somewhat turbulent years for the Dutch company and while new and improved trucks continued to be introduced these developments were made against a background of changing corporate structure. Models included a new generation of the 2800 series, the F3300. which was aimed primarily at the long distance haulier, and later the lighter F2100 series appeared. A new version of the 2300 was also released and for the high powered lightweight market there was the F2500 with an improved 8.25-litre diesel engine. DAF understandably expected great things from these new vehicles but their sales performance was outweighed by problems in the US. Exchange rates and problems with selling European truck designs to US hauliers led to the decision by International Harvester to end its association with DAF in 1983 and the shareholding was sold to the V A D O Group and D S M. An additional problem for DAF was the F241 cab design which was now seen as outdated and although design teams were working on a new cab this would not be ready until 1988 or 1989 at the earliest.

Planning for the future

The OAF Present Truck Generation team delivered a two stage plan, the first part involving the introduction of a new high roof ‘spacecab’ which was designed to complete with the latest offerings from other companies. The second stage was the introduction of new refined version of the 1160 series turbo charged, intercooled engine.

In 1986 DAF began joint development work with British Leyland and agreed to supply the 8.25-litre D H T D engines for use in the Leyland Constructor and in return Leyland lightweight vehicles would be badged as DAF in the European market and would become the 45 sense. Leyland at this time was In financial difficulty and there were rumours that several companies were looking to acquire the company. Partly as a defensive measure, but also because the two companies appeared to have a good fit in terms of production and marketing plans, the two companies agreed a merger in April 1987 with the new company to be known as Leyland DAF. As far as truck production was concerned those models destined for the UK market would be badged as Leyland DAF. The Leyland bus division was subject to a management buyout and later sold to Volvo, the existing DAF UK head office at Marlow was closed and a new headquarters opened m Thame. The opening of this prestigious new office coincided with the launch of the new 95 Series with the Leyland DAF 95 being released in the UK and the DAF 95 in the rest of Europe. Despite the turmoil of the company merger and re-structuring, the new 95 Series was very well received although early models certainly did have a number of technical problems which had to be corrected as a matter of urgency. However, it was certainly an impressive truck and in 1988 it was voted Truck of the Year — the first time DAF had won the award.

With the Leyland DAF restructuring beginning to settle down and an award winning vehicle in production the company went into the 1990s on a positive note, but unfortunately the euphoria would not last. The effects of the economic recession were taking their toll not only in the UK and Europe but across the world and by 1993 truck sales had fallen away very sharply. The UK market was hit very badly which was bad news for DAF as this was now the company’s largest market and its financial position was desperate to say the least. In February 1993, following the appointment of the receivers, the company was declared bankrupt. The Dutch and Belgian governments intervened to save their national truck industry and In March 1993 DAF Trucks N V was created. However, these arrangements do not include the Leyland DAF operation in the UK which was now faced with a complete closure. A management buyout rescued the company which now became Leyland Truck Manufacturing, and under the terms of a new agreement continued to build trucks which were sold and badged as DAF.

DAF. once again backed by government funding, sought to expand and new factories were opened in Morocco, Warsaw, and DAF trucks were also now being built in China.

Unfortunately this independence did not last long as in November 1996 the company was acquired by the US company P A C C A R Inc and joined the world’s largest truck manufacturing group. To »complete the circle» P A C C A R also acquired Leyland Trucks in 1998 bringing the two companies under the same umbrella once again.

US control

P A C C A R retained the DAF name and the company was able to complete the development of its new model, the DAF 95XF which was unveiled the following year. The long haul truck was powered by the new six inline 12.6-litre 24 valve diesel engine with the top of the range model developing 530BHP. This truck followed in the footsteps of the DAF 95 and was also acclaimed as International Truck of the Year’ in

16.5 The end of the decade was marked by the production of the 500,000th DAF truck chassis in

1999, an event which had wicked rather uncertain only a few years previously.

The start of the new millennium saw the end of the Leyland DAF brand name and the launch of the mid range CF series. The following year.

2001, saw the appearance of the DAF L F Series which had been specially designed to meet the requirements of the distribution industry. The new six-tonne to 18-tonne range, which was introduced at the Brussels Motor Show, offered a variety of wheel-bases and engines and the trucks were available with both day cab and sleeper cab versions. The L F Series certainly made an impact and In 2002 was voted International Truck of the Year’, the third time that the company had won the prestigious award.

Also launched in 2001 w3S the upgraded CF with the top of the range model, the CF85. being powered by the DAF built version of the 510BHP P A C C A R MX engine, while the CF75 had the 9.2-litre P A C C A R PR engine and the CF65 was fitted with a 6.7-litre GR engine. The DAF CF became another outstanding success for the company and proved itself to be extremely popular with operators all over Europe and was acclaimed Fleet Truck of the Year In 2009.

The DAF programme of developing new models arid the upgrading of existing proven trucks continued and in 2002 came the updated version of the 95XF which was a pretty hard act to follow, but the new DAF XF95 delivered in terms of space, comfort, fuel economy and operational efficiency.

It was to be only four years before the next OAF ’showstopper’ was unveiled with the launch of the XF105 in 2005. with full production starling the following year. Powered by P A C C A R MX engines this truck raised the bar as far as industry standards on quality, efficiency and performance were concerned and few were surprised when it was voted ‘International Truck of the Year’ in 2007. Other awards followed and included the 2012 Irish Fleet Truck Award as well as the Australian International Design Award, where it was praised for its elegant design, ergonomic features and superb comfort, the comments being reminiscent of those applied to the DAF26Q0 when that was launched.

Since becoming p3rt of P A C C A R the company has gone from strength to strength as far as its reputation as a world truck manufacturer is concerned arid has continued to expand. In 2007 the company produced its 750,0Q0th truck chassis at Eindhoven, while in 2011 the 100,000th DAF LF was built at the Leyland plant. Annual production has increased from some 18000 units in the late 1980s to over 60.

DAF is very much a company of the present but it pays due homage to its heritage and in 1993 the OAF Museum was opened. Here can be seen examples of some of the vehicles which the company has produced throughout its history and the displays include not only trucks but also the cars and buses which DAF have built.

While due respect is paid to the company’s history DAF continues to offer its customers leading edge technology as illustrated by the latest DAF XF which is powered by a new PACCAR MX-13 engine and features a completely new chassis frame as well as state of the art exterior and interior cab styling. The new truck is certainly a strong candidate for industry awards and continues the exacting technical standards which were the hallmarks of the business begun by the van Doorne brothers 85 years ago.

The use of images from the DAF Archive is gratefully acknowledged.

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