Van Hool trailer division prepares to restart as GRW

After more than two weeks of inactivity, Van Hool’s industrial trailer division is said to be ready for a restart in phases as a split-off, starting on Monday under the new South African owner, GRW. The South African company, owned 39,05% by German Schmitz Cargobull, will make Koninghooikt in Belgium its fourth industrial site after its homeland, Kenya, and Germany.

GRW’s CEO Gerhard van der Merwe confirmed the restart will be done in three phases and will be fully operational by the beginning of June. The first step is to finish the products that are already on the assembly lines. The second is buying and manufacturing new parts to start producing the vehicles in the still-filled order book in the third phase.

Keeping skilled workers

Gerard van der Merwe was one of the three founders of GRW in 1995, an acronym for their first names: Gerwin, Rossouw, and Wentzel. The latter is Gerwin’s brother. Like Van Hool, GRW offers a wide range of state-of-the-art truck tankers and trailers sold in Africa, Australia, the Middle East, and Europe.

For the new South African owner, keeping a core of skilled Van Hool workers on board is crucial. The company believes that a high-quality product can only be manufactured by highly skilled individuals, so it claims to invest a lot of time and money in training and developing employees.

Maintaining 350 jobs

GRW intends to keep at least 350 former Van Hool specialists at work in Koningshooikt, where it will start renting the existing infrastructure. According to Flemish Minister of Works Jo Brouns (CD&V), GRW intends to build a brand new factory on-site within two years.

Concerns about keeping the expertise of the Van Hool employees was one of the major concerns of the curators of the bankrupt bus and industrial trailer manufacturer. “There was a great risk that if a restart were delayed too long, the potential of good employees and the still-running activities and orders at Van Hool would be completely lost,” curator Jeroen Pinoy explained earlier when the final takeover was announced two weeks ago.

“A further postponement of deliveries would also have financial implications and would have dried the distribution channels. “This is the best solution for employment and a durable restart,” Pinoy concluded.

Bus division still unclear

On Wednesday, April 10th, two days after the Court in Mechelen declared Van Hool bankrupt, the curators finally chose the initial bids of VDL for the bus section and GRW-Schmitz Cargobull for the trailer section.

For the bus division, talks with the Dutch VDL Group are still ongoing. While the factory in Macedonia continues to work under VDL, it’s unclear whether production in Belgium will restart.





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