Komatsu’s presence in New Zealand dates back to 1965 – four years before the formation of the Aggregate and Quarry Association of New Zealand.
The company’s “official” history in New Zealand began in 1965 when machinery dealer John Ward happened to see a photo of a Komatsu machine on the cover of Time magazine.
Keen to see Komatsu reach its potential in NZ, he soon came to an agreement with Komatsu, and the company that was to become Motor Holdings, to begin actively marketing the brand in the country.
John Ward and business partner Les Hill immediately bought two D80 dozers, one fitted with hydraulic angle blade and the other with cable controls, along with an RS60 scraper, which arrived in the country in 1965.
A year later, Motor Holdings took on the distributorship nationally, retaining both John Ward and Len Hill in management roles for a number of years.
This was a very successful operation, and in fact in both 1967 and 1968 Komatsu outsold its arch-rival in bulldozer sales.
Motor Holdings remained New Zealand’s Komatsu dealer until 2001, firmly establishing the brand in the marketplace from the late 1960s and into the 1970s, although changes in ownership resulted in some tumultuous times for Komatsu and its customers over the next few decades.
Then in April 2001, NS Komatsu, having been highly successful as Komatsu’s Australian distributor throughout the 1990s, expanded into New Zealand, taking over Motor Holdings’ premises, staff, facilities and well-established service agent network.
Only two months later, NS Komatsu was transformed into Komatsu Australia, and embarking on the next phase in the journey that has made Komatsu a significant player in the mining and construction sectors throughout New Zealand, Australia, New Caledonia, and more recently, Indonesia.
This has seen Komatsu’s reputation – and its sales – lift to a point where it is regarded as a premium equipment supplier for New Zealand, offering industry-leading standards of service, support and technical expertise.
According to Garth Dixon, Komatsu NZ’s National Sales Manager, from its earliest days in New Zealand, the company was determined to play a major role in large quarrying and mining projects.
“After making our mark early in New Zealand’s forestry sector, in the mid- 1970s, Komatsu began staking out a presence in the mining industry, with the release of models such as the D455A dozer – at the time, the largest dozer in the world,” Garth said.
“By the early 1980s, we were marketing such products as the D555A dozer – which with its production version, the D575A, was the largest dozer ever built – HD1600M dump truck and PC1600 excavator/face shovel.”
In 1983, large Komatsu machines began being used in mining and quarrying projects throughout the country; that year saw the delivery of multiple D455s, along with six HD460 dump trucks, a D155 and two PC650 excavators.
“And one of those early buyers – which has operations across quarrying, mining and contracting all over New Zealand – remains a loyal Komatsu company today,” Garth said.
“During our 50-plus years of operation in New Zealand, Komatsu has supplied quarrying, processing and handling equipment to operators throughout the country, from some of our largest suppliers, to mid-size operators and small sand-and-gravel extraction operations.”
Garth said that many of the company’s customers in this sector operate all-Komatsu fleets, across face loaders and excavators, haul trucks in their extraction operations, through to sales loaders in their stockpile operations.
“Today, we offer a full range of quarry-specific equipment, including wheel loaders from WA430 to WA500-size machines for sales and stockpile work, WA500, WA600 and WA700 face loaders, rigid dump trucks from 41 tonnes to 91 tonnes capacity, and excavators from 40 tonnes to 110 tonnes operating weight.
“As well, many of our other construction-sized products including dozers, smaller excavators and loaders, and articulated dump trucks also find applications in various quarrying operations.”
Garth said that Komatsu’s acquisition of Joy Global in 2017 meant that an even wider range of quarrying handling and processing products was now available through the company.
“As a result of this, we now offer a range of crushing, conveying and processing systems designed specifically for quarry operations, and which provide a perfect complement to our range of mobile equipment.”
However, Komatsu’s offering today is not just limited to equipment, he said.
“We work closely with our customers to ensure we truly understands their business, and to investigate ways to help them reduce costs and increase efficiency.