The man who has sold more Kenworths than anyone in Australia is calling time on his long and illustrious career at the end of June.
After 58 years in the industry, 80-year-old Manny Melkonian has seen so much change through the decades.
His career with PACCAR began way back in 1970, a year before the Kenworth and DAF manufacturer had even started producing trucks in Australia.
Of Armenian descent, Melkonian was born in Lebanon of Armenian parents who were survivors of the Armenian Genocide of 1915 and came to Melbourne in 1962.
He first began selling fuel pumps, then parts, followed by agricultural equipment and finally trucks, where he would go on to become a legend of the truck sales game.
“I was working at International Harvester and got promoted into export machines, I went into that because I spoke seven languages, so I used to deal with all of the correspondence in different languages. I was there for about five to six years and then said, I’m bored, give me something else to do. So, they said, do you want to sell trucks?” recalled Melkonian. And that’s how it started.
In 1970, he was offered a job selling used trucks at a Kenworth dealership on Bell Street in the Melbourne suburb of Preston.
Though he admits, he didn’t know a whole lot about trucks at the time – despite going in and trying to sell to some of the nation’s biggest fleets.
“They had quite a bit of dead used stock that had accumulated, but then there were no used trucks left to sell so I said, what do you want me to do? They said, do you want to sell new trucks?” said Melkonian, who began doing just that.
When asked about the biggest changes he’s seen in his time in truck sales, he responded with, “It’s completely different now. PACCAR didn’t build trucks here in 1970, the factory wasn’t open until 1971.”
As possibly the best Kenworth salesman our nation has seen, Melkonian said he has enjoyed every minute.
“I’ve sold more Kenworth trucks than any other individual in this country and I enjoyed doing it and working for a good company that treats its customers very well. It’s the principle of doing for others what you want them to do for you – that’s what Kenworth is based on.
“I’ve really enjoyed it. I prospered and made lots of friends who are still my friends. When you’re working for decent people, who look after the customers – because the customers are everything – if you do the right thing by them, they keep coming back and they bring others back.”
In six decades, trucks have changed so much. With that being said, I asked Melkonian what some of his most memorable Kenworth models were over the years.
“The W925 which was the original model that we imported, the S model and the K125. They were far superior to any other truck that we had in this country at the time.
“There were other good trucks too, but none as foolproof as the Kenworth has been. People who like Kenworths hang onto them and they adore them. It’s a passion.”
During an event hosted by PACCAR at its Bayswater manufacturing facility recently, which celebrated the brand’s 50 years of manufacturing in Australia, together with the handover of its 70,000th truck, Melkonian joined Managing Director of PACCAR Australia Andrew Hadjikakou, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Brown and Hurley Group’s Jim (JJ) Hurley on stage.
Hadjikakou gave a glowing tribute to Melkonian, who he described as, “A legend who 51 years ago started with PACCAR and witnessed the dawn of Kenworth manufacturing. He’s kept us busy and singlehandedly has sold more than 3000 Kenworths.”
He added that though Melkonian will soon be retiring, his legacy will be remembered.
To be in a job for over 50 years and to leave such a mark is a massive achievement. Melkonian could speak for hours about the stories he’s experienced and the relationships he’s made along the way. His name has come up numerous times by customers we’ve spoken to, and they have nothing but glowing praise.
“It’s the people you deal with, you do the right thing by customers and they send you more people. And the company I work for, I couldn’t have asked for anything better and that’s why I persisted. I don’t do it for the money, but for the satisfaction,” Melkonian said.
“Kenworths are the best I have seen in this country. We build better trucks here than they do in the States because their conditions aren’t as hard as ours.”
Melkonian has announced he will retire at the end of June, around the same time as his 81st birthday.
“I’m worried I’ll be bored stiff because this has been my life. It’s going to be very hard for me, but it has to happen, because your mind is not as sharp, and your memory is not as sharp as it used to be.
“The time has come. I will miss all the things, especially the people. What’s always driven me is the relationships and doing the right thing by everyone I deal with.”