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From milking cows to running a Daimler Truck dealership

Putting in the hard yards while growing up on a farm in NSW, to learning a trade and selling trucks, the Gerace family is celebrating the opening of its newest truck dealership.

Located in NSW’s South Coast region, the new Daimler Truck dealership will officially open in August and will be operated by STM Trucks and Machinery.

Initially it will operate from STM’s existing site at Unanderra, with a purpose-built facility soon to be constructed.

Dealer principal Michael Gerace is the son of Italian immigrants who came to Australia after the war with the dream of creating a better life. Francesco and Maria Gerace had a strong work ethic that meant long, hard hours of labour to cement a future for themselves and their family.

In the late 1950’s they bought a parcel of land in the Liverpool region of NSW and ran dairy cows and a market garden. This was where sons, Michael and Ralph, and their sister Cathy learnt the meaning of hard work and the positive results it could bring.

“We worked 24/7,” quipped Michael. “If it wasn’t on the garden, it was milking the cows twice a day. Dad sold that property in the 60’s and bought an orchard and chicken farm at Campbelltown. We dressed the chickens and sold those, eggs and the orchard produce in a small retail shop. The work didn’t get any easier, it was just different.”

Leaving school in year 10, Ralph gained an apprenticeship as a panel beater, whilst Michael became an apprentice diesel mechanic, working for Glen Motors who had an International Harvester franchise selling trucks and agricultural equipment.

In the last year of his apprenticeship, Michael had a soccer injury and wound up with his leg in a plaster.

“I couldn’t work on the farm and was bored at home, so I would hobble in to work. The mechanical repairs side was out, so I sat behind the parts counter instead. I really enjoyed it and I became a parts interpreter for four or five years.”

Jim Glen had a partner who wanted out of his share. With 50 per cent of the company up for sale, Michael saw an opportunity but didn’t have the means to jump into the deep end – so he approached his father for financial assistance.

Francesco also realised a good opportunity when he saw it and, as well as loaning Michael the money to buy in, he also purchased the property the dealership was on, thereby becoming the landlord.

A decade later, in the early 1990’s, Michael bought Jim Glen out and asked his brother, Ralph and brother-in-law Nick Papallo to come in as partners.

“As part of the buyout we inherited a substantial amount of property which Jim and I had purchased over the years. We had DA approval for a new dealership on Camden Valley Way. Once Jim was gone, we built a brand-new dealership and thought we would retire there,” said Michael.

“Another decade passed, and a property developer approached us about buying the land and premises. It was a good offer, so we did the deal. Dad suggested that we all had the opportunity to retire young, but we had 45 employees whose livelihood depended on us. So, from the proceeds of the sale, I bought the block of land where we are now at Smeaton Grange, figuring this would be the last move – except it’s not!”

The family had held the International Truck business since 1975 and added a Mitsubishi (later to become Fuso) franchise in the early 1980’s. Then around 2006 they were offered a New Holland Construction franchise, a business they felt was complimentary as a lot of their customers had tippers, prime movers, and floats and many had construction equipment.

New Holland morphed into the Japanese owned Kobelco Construction Equipment and the Gerace family have not looked back, moving into yet another premises, purchasing another Kobelco franchise at Oak Flats near Wollongong as well as a construction equipment branch at Queanbeyan.

Unlike many others, the business thrived during the Covid years with the company able to procure stock – not only of construction machinery, but also of the Fuso product.

“Throughout that period, we reached our targets with Fuso. We were proactive in that we built trucks with bodies on them – tippers, beaver tails, whatever was needed. We were also active with our marketing and were able to increase our volumes across the dealership,” Michael explained.

STM has won Fuso Metro Dealer of the Year for the past two years. Image: Daimler Truck Australia Pacific

Many customers had asked the business, now known as STM Trucks and Machinery, when they were going to take on a new franchise. STM has won Fuso Metro Dealer of the Year for the past two years and Michael had a good relationship with Daimler Truck Australia.

“We’ve had a sales, parts and services outlet for Fuso in Sydney for a number of years and I’d expressed our interest in expanding our franchises. Then the opportunity arose to expand with the full Daimler Truck brands on the South Coast,” said Michael.

“So, yet again we’ll be building a new purpose-built premises over an hour down the road at Kembla Grange, just south of Wollongong. We expect this to happen sometime in 2026 but meanwhile we are proud to announce that we will be officially opening at an existing facility in Unanderra in August,” said Michael.

“This facility will offer the Mercedes-Benz and Freightliner product, with the Fuso brand joining them there on January 1 next year. And I can also announce that these next moves will definitely be our last!”

As well as Michael, Ralph and Nick Papallo, the family continues to involve other members, with Nick’s son Rocco as general manager and Ralph’s son Bruno as sales manager for trucks.

Michael’s son Francesco has also come into the fold in the past year on the admin side and is learning the business from the ground up.

And so the family moves onto another stage in their lives with the acquisition of the full range of Daimler Truck product. The ‘wider family’ of employees have grown to near 150 and Michael says he is always cognisant that they all rely on him and his fellow directors for their livelihoods.

That work ethic instilled in the brothers from an early age has paid off – not only in spades, but in trucks for Michael Gerace and co.

The new Daimler dealership is located at 7-9 Glastonbury Avenue, Unanderra, NSW.

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