German truck maker MAN has taken a cue from its neighbour in Munich, BMW, and is building a new dispatch centre that will also serve as a stylish reception hall where customers will come to pick up their new trucks and be treated to exhibitions, test drives, training, a restaurant and tours around the factory. The MAN Forum, as it will be called, is expected to be complete in June 2009.

Last year, MAN's Munich factory delivered 39,000 trucks, according to Georg Zimmerman, who is the department head for Automotive Delivery, Truck and Bus across MAN production in Munich, Krakow and Pilsting. Of those, customers picked up 10,000 directly at the factory, with 15,000 delivered by car carriers, and around 14,000 jockey (the new truck driven to its destination on its own wheels).

MAN hopes the Forum could attract more customers, though Zimmerman will not make any predictions. "We are hopeful, but with the current economic problems, we have to be careful in our expectations for next year," he said.

The German car industry in recent years has made efforts to change the consumer experience for car delivery for many of its local customers by inviting them to pick up their new cars fresh from the factory, in adjacent buildings that are part-museum, part-mall and part-distribution centre. Volkswagen's Autostadt was the vanguard at the turn of this century, with Daimler opening a Mercedes-Benz museum near its factory in Stuttgart in 2006, and last year BMW opening the BMW Welt (BMW World), which some have estimated to cost more than €300m. 

The forum will not compare in size or scale to BMW Welt, and is most relevant to customers in Munich and Germany. But some customers already pick up their trucks directly from as far away as Russia, a fast growing market for MAN, and the Forum could be an opportunity to increase such numbers.

The dispatch centre, which remains operational during the rebuild, is already a major hub of activity. Zimmerman said that around 180 trucks normally enter the Munich dispatch centre daily from German factories in Munich and Salzgitter and Austrian plants in Vienna and Steyr. Up to 350 trucks enter the yard during peak times. The yard currently has capacity for 480 trucks, a lean operation for MAN, as Zimmerman points out, with space for only around two and half days of finished stock.

"For overseas deliveries, trucks typically wait around 15 days, depending on available sailings," he said. "If they are being picked up by customers, it is normally five days, while most direct deliveries leave within just two days."