1980: Kurt Kerler and his Zeppelin story

Kurt Kerler, Garching

Job title: Divisional Head of Used Equipment at Zeppelin Baumaschinen GmbH

Years of Service: 41

Kurt Kerler is the Divisional Head of Used Equipment at Zeppelin Baumaschinen GmbH. He started his career at Zeppelin back in 1979 as an apprentice and worked his way through the organization. Today, he is responsible for all used equipment in Germany as well as for the export of used machinery and equipment: when it comes to used equipment, Zeppelin is active all over the world. Kurt Kerler closely works with colleagues at Caterpillar, aligning marketing and business strategies for used equipment with them. Moreover, he keeps contact with other Caterpillar dealers around the world.

bauma, the world’s largest trade fair which takes place every three years in Munich, always is a special highlight in Kurt’s calendar.

Mr Kerler, do you remember your first bauma back in 1980? What was your task? In what way has work changed over the years?

I went to bauma for the first time as a visitor, when I started to work for Zeppelin, as an apprentice. During my first “active” bauma, I was responsible for checking the contracts. They were all hand-written and at night, when the visitors had left, I sorted them and added up the sums with a small calculator. We had neither fax machines nor any computers. Unthinkable today! Later, when Zeppelin started to offer leasing options for its customers and when Caterpillar introduced its financial services, I looked after that part of the business and advised customers about it also at bauma. As a branch leader, I was of course actively involved in selling our machines and equipment with my teams at various baumas. Since 2004, I head the Used Equipment Department and keep on selling and advising customers, nationally and internationally. I remember very well that our competitors did not take seriously our certified used equipment strategy in the beginning, but we are very successful!

In your eyes, how has bauma changed over the years? How has Zeppelin’s presence changed?

In the first years, we were still at the old exhibition site at Theresienwiese. Everything was much smaller, we had only a few exhibits and the atmosphere was much cozier. I could carry all the brochures and user manuals in one single folder. Today, we have documents for more than 200 construction machines and equipment…

In the course of the years, Zeppelin has enlarged its portfolio and consequently, also the exhibition space has increased. Events and special shows for visitors and customers have been added.

For me, every bauma has been a highlight, because Zeppelin and Caterpillar have always presented innovative products and we were always ahead of our competitors. Personally, I am curious about the innovations at the next bauma in 2022 – I am sure we will see a lot of them in the field of autonomous driving. Also when it comes to electrical power systems and – maybe to hydrogen technologies- I expect to see some new developments.

Is there a story or an event that you remember in particular?

When I was a young chap and bauma was still at Theresienwiese, we had a piano player entertaining our guests and visitors. I like that very much and when the guy left for a break, I could not help myself but entered the stage and starting playing the instrument myself. He was not so amused when he came back and found out, but in the next few days we made friends and in the end, he even asked me to take over his role when he had a break.

Is Zeppelin still the same company as it was back then?

Zeppelin is not the same company anymore and yet still the same company! When you consider the workflows and processes, we have seen a lot of changes. But when it comes to social interaction and cooperation, Zeppelin has always been a special place. Both in bad times and in good times, I have experienced a strong cohesion and team spirit among the Zeppelin team.

I was born in 1954 – exactly the same year when Zeppelin and Caterpillar started their partnership. I think I was born to spend a period of more than 40 years with Zeppelin! I really feel happy that I was able to write a small part of Zeppelin’s and Caterpillar’s joint partnership history.

What do you wish for Zeppelin for its birthday?  

I sincerely hope that the team spirit of all Zeppelin employees will continue to keep the successful “airship” that is our company up in the skies! Working with Zeppelin is a life philosophy – once a “Graf” (count), you are a “Graf” forever! I am as enthusiastic about my job today as I was on my first day in the company!

Below, you can see an article from Caterpillar’s Dealer Magazine – the June/July 1989 issue features an article about bauma which also shows Kurt Kerler on the photo – he’s the first one on the right-hand side (just in front of the briefcase). In the article, you can learn how many machines and engine Zeppelin sold at bauma 1989: “By the time the weeklong show ended, Zeppelin sold 155 Cat machines and 22 engines.” That was quite a lot at that time, but compared with the bauma 2019 figures, where Zeppelin sold 3,550 used and new construction machines alone, you can grasp the dimension of Zeppelin’s growth in the 30 years in-between.

Caterpillar’s Dealer Magazine – the June/July 1989 issue

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