It was 1952, a big year for many. Queen Elizabeth II was crowned, Sir Robert Menzies was Australian Prime Minister, and DEUTZ Australia was established in Melbourne.
As DEUTZ celebrates its 70th anniversary here, we step back in time to remember our humble beginnings in Richmond, and how the business has created a rich and varied history.
Initially DEUTZ Australia sold tractors and agricultural machinery. By the 1980s, it had around 60 staff and sold 1000 tractors and 60 harvesters each year.
Today the company has expanded into New Zealand and the South Pacific and sells some of the world’s best Engines, Innovative Drive & Genset solutions.
To mark this special milestone, we’ve traced DEUTZ Australia’s origins and spoken to past and current staff, and a long-term dealer, about their fondest memories.
The early days
When DEUTZ entered Australia on 27 June 1952, it was registered as Overseas Plant and Equipment Limited. After several name changes, it became DEUTZ Australia in 1967.
Mike Kuhlwind from LK Diesel Service, who worked in DEUTZ’s tractor department for a few years, says in the 1960s DEUTZ used to name trucks after planets like Saturn.
Mike remembers visiting an early head office in Huntingdale as a child and thinking it was big paddock. He was also told that the first office occupied a shop front in Richmond.
“It was like the old street shop with two big glass windows on either side and a door in the middle,” Mike says. “They’d park trucks in the alleyway at the back.”
DEUTZ has come a long way since those modest days. Opened in 2019, our modern and expansive Dandenong South headquarters has plenty of space for engines, parts, and staff facilities.
Tea ladies and snail mail
Belinda Sum, who began as a Settlement Clerk in 1985 and now works in Accounts Payable & Payroll, remembers that era fondly.
Back then a tea lady, a fixture in many offices, would deliver tea, coffee, and biscuits on a trolley to staff at their desk. But that changed when apparently a senior manager installed a primitive coffee machine.
It was also the era of keeping printed telefax messages “short and sweet” to save money, while data entry staff shared one huge computer that filled a room.
Everything else was manual, with countless brochures and letters sent by ‘snail mail’.
“We printed a lot of brochures,” Belinda says.
Roger Wenzel worked for DEUTZ Australia from 1983-2015, rising to National Sales Manager, and remembers the agriculture and engine departments occupying separate buildings across the road from each other in Moorabbin.
Roger saw DEUTZ engines evolve significantly. He says even in the 1980s they were ahead of the game – and still are. “They’re good quality, long lasting engines,” he says.
Spreading our wings
In the 1980s DEUTZ Australia sold a range of agricultural machinery such as combine harvesters and low loaders. It also had a Humboldt Wedag division, which was involved in mineral processing equipment.
Staff adjusted to many organisational and product changes over the years, including the purchase and sale of MWM Engines.
In the early 1990s DEUTZ Australia had two Managing Directors – Peter Loosen in engines and Karl Haak in tractors – but returned to a single MD in 2001 when Landpower purchased the tractor division.
In the early 2000s we also had reps in New Zealand, including Ron Tanner, who worked with the company from 1973-2011 and became a General Manager.
“I grew the business over there,” Ron says. “A lot of people started using DEUTZ engines.”
For the past 20 years, DEUTZ has concentrated on selling some of the world’s best engines and our exclusive range of innovative Gensets.
Consolidation service and culture
DEUTZ Australia Finance and General Manager Max Torkar, who joined in 2006, says the focus is now on innovative drive systems, parts and gensets.
He says this has maintained efficiency and profitability through specialised service and quality products that meet modern safety requirements and customer needs.
“We customise to the local conditions,” Max says. “It’s a relatively dynamic and lean organisation which means we have a high degree of autonomy and can really look after our customers and their needs.”
Current DEUTZ Australia MD Craig Chamberlin took over in 2013 and has worked with staff to transform the company culture to be more customer-facing, which then improves performance and business growth.
“Our overarching aim is to be strong partner for our customers,” he says.
Craig says the most exciting innovations have included new business opportunities and product launches such as DEUTZ Drive Power Packs, the all new DEUTZ Genset business and the expansion of the Xchange engine and parts program.
A bright future
DEUTZ Australia’s future is aligned with the DEUTZ AG strategy, with a big focus on electric and hybrid drive systems.
“We will work with DAG to bring more environmentally friendly, innovative drive technologies, such as E-DEUTZ, hydrogen and alternative gas power solutions, to DEUTZ Australia customers,” Craig says.
“We are proud of our history. DEUTZ AG is the world’s oldest engine company and has been serving customers globally for nearly 160 years. For the last 70 years, DEUTZ Australia staff have been working hard to provide solutions to our customers and to maintain our reputation.
“Our staff have put in a lot of effort to satisfy consumers and uphold our reputation. I want to express my gratitude to all our fantastic employees and clients. We have come a long way together, and I am looking forward to working with them on future projects.”