Kopřivnice car factory TATRA TRUCKS a.s. is the oldest manufacturer of means of transport in the world with a tradition going back to 1850, the second oldest worldwide manufacturer of trucks and the third oldest manufacturer of passenger cars. Heavy off-road trucks and combined (for off-road and road) transport vehicles represent the current main production line. Their construction is based on the original Tatra chassis concept with a central support pipe and oscillating, independently suspended half-axles. Such cars are characterised by outstanding throughput on the most challenging terrain under extreme climatic conditions, high reliability, and excellent utility properties.
In the survey Czech brand 2019 that took place last November, Tatra Trucks ranked first in the category focusing on brands that the Czechs are proudest of and won the second place in the category of traditional Czech brand. Do you believe that it would be perhaps better to sale Tatra directly to a foreign owner after 1989, focusing on the brand and the markets in which it was established?
I have no need to comment on such a question. Tatra was a different company with a different ownership structure in 1989. The current Czech owners have owned it since 2013. According to the results of the survey mentioned above, the Czech public positively perceived the fact that Czech entrepreneurs currently own Tatra Trucks.
Tatra Trucks' revenues for the first nine months of last year have exceeded three billion Czech crowns. What is the share of this production for military purposes and the civilian sector?
The ratio reaches approximately 50 per cent in the category of special purpose vehicles, i.e. vehicles for the army, firefighters and rescuers; civilian sector vehicles comprise the other half.
In 2015–2018, Tatra Trucks delivered about 600 chassis for roughly one billion Czech crowns to the Jordanian company named King Abdullah II Design and Development Bureau, and 60 trucks for 200 million Czech crowns to the Jordanian army. Do you believe that Tatra Trucks has, thus, gained access to other markets in the area?
Every major foreign commission provides us with an excellent reference for potential customers in a particular area. As far as the Near and Middle East are concerned, the Kopřivnice car manufacturer has been well established there for a long time. Already in 1997 and 1998, Tatra Trucks supplied the United Arab Emirates army more than a thousand T-815/816 vehicles, which formed the core of its logistics equipment. Tatra also carries out repairs of the cars. Moreover, the Tatra vehicles form an essential part of the Israeli army equipment, acquired in recent years as part of US military foreign assistance. A production plant in Saudi Arabia was built in 2014 focusing on the production of Tatra medium vehicles, and in 2018, the Kopřivnice car factory, together with local partners, completed a new assembly plant for the production of Tatra heavy vehicles. Last year, Tatra Trucks gained more commissions from Jordan for 300 chassis worth over one billion CZK.
How does the cooperation between the Tatra Trucks and the Indian Army develop? And what about the deliveries to Brazil?
The cooperation with the Indian state-owned company BEML continues successfully; the company supplies Tatra vehicles to the Indian Army. In the autumn of 2018, representatives of the automobile factory from Kopřivnice signed the key memorandum of understanding with this significant Indian company. The memorandum was signed on the occasion of the visit of Indian President Ram Nath Kovinda to the Czech Republic in September. Representatives of both companies signed it at the Indian Business Forum held in Prague attended by the presidents of India and the Czech Republic. The memorandum has not only reaffirmed Tatra Trucks’ position as a strategic partner to the Indian Defense Ministry but has also confirmed the key position of Tatra Trucks that the company had had on the Indian market years ago. Thus, Tatra Trucks ceased to be a general supplier of technologies to the Indian Army.
Last year, Tatra Trucks continued to supply chassis for military vehicles to Brazil delivered there in 2018. Brazil has been one of our traditional customers. In 2019, our company was awarded a contract for 56 complete chassis in 4×4 and 6×6 variants; such result means more than a double increase compared to 2018. The Brazilian partner installs special armoured bodies on the supplied Tatra chassis equipped with the central support pipe and oscillating half-axles fitted with Tatra engines and gearboxes. Completed vehicles are partly intended for the Brazilian army; others are designed to be used by other armed forces. Based on long-term and excellent cooperation with our Brazilian partners, Tatra Trucks may expect further commissions in the future. The Brazilian partner also ordered three Tatra Terra vehicles with an 8×8 axle chassis. On such trucks fitted with Tatra engines, gearboxes, and hook-loaders, our German business partner installs individual bodies. The assembled cars will be used in South America as carriers of pontoon bridge sets.
What other contracts have Tatra Trucks gained with the Ministry of Defense of the Czech Republic?
At the May IDET 2019 fair, Tatra Trucks signed a contract with the Ministry of Defense of the Czech Republic for the supply of 31 heavy off-road trucks Tatra Force. Just a month later, the Ministry of Defense signed a contract for 62 Titus armoured vehicles fitted on Tatra chassis. It shall be manufactured in close cooperation between Tatra Trucks, Tatra Defense Vehicle and the companies of Retia, Eldis and others from the Czechoslovak Group holding. The latest, from August 2019, commission for the Ministry of Defense of the Czech Republic comprises 71 trucks worth more than half a billion Czech crown. The 37 Tatra Force heavy vehicles and 34 Tatra Tactic medium vehicles are due to be delivered in the next two years. Moreover, the Army may receive another thirty Force vehicles between 2022 and 2024 as needed.
In January 2017, the Ministry of Defense of the Czech Republic signed a contract with Tatra Defense Vehicle for the supply of 20 special armoured Pandur II vehicles. How far has that particular commission advanced to date? What is the relationship between Tatra Defense Vehicle and Tatra Trucks?
Tatra Defense Vehicle (TDV) belongs to the Czechoslovak Group (CSG) holding and is, therefore, entirely owned by Mr Michal Strnad, the owner of the CSG holding. The only point of contact between both companies represents one of the Tatra Trucks owners – Mr Michal Strnad. Tatra Trucks is jointly owned by entrepreneurs Michal Strnad and René Matera. The company of Tatra Trucks neither forms part of the CSG holding nor is directly connected with Tatra Defense Vehicle; they are two completely separate entities. Both companies, of course, cooperate on some projects, especially on the development and subsequent production of Titus armoured vehicles for the Czech Army. Moreover, TDV also manufactures armoured cabins designed for military versions of Tatra vehicles.
In December 2019, the Military of the Czech Republic obtained the first four vehicles of the 20 ordered special communication and command-post Pandurs. We will deliver the remaining 16 cars to the Army in the coming months. TDV developed these vehicles in cooperation with state research organisations such as Military Research Institute, Military Technical Institute of Ground Forces, and other Czech companies (Retia, Eldis, Meopta, Ray Service, Optokon, Interlink CS, B.O.I.S. Filtry etc.), and GDELS-Steyr (supplier of the original Pandurs II CZ for the Czech Army, which were partially manufactured in the Vienna-based company GDELS-Steyr; the majority of these cars was, however, assembled by the state-owned company VOP in Šenov).