The new face of Iveco
Iveco Southern Africa is under new leadership. MD Bob Lowden has big plans for the company.
Lowden, who came out from the UK and has been at the helm of Iveco since February 2012, has already made great strides in turning the business around. He put a new team in place, and has grown the number of registrations of new Iveco vehicles by over 30 percent. And he intends to grow it even more in the coming year.
But why was there a need for change? Lowden explains: “Firstly, we had no ‘used’ business, which really limits extra heavy commercial vehicle [EHCV] sales. Secondly, there was no key fleet focus. So I have appointed a key accounts specialist. (In the UK, 65 percent of commercial vehicle sales are fleet purchases.) After-sales support is also vital in terms of the EHCV sector – another thing I learnt in the UK. We are in the process of appointing someone new to head up this division, and I think that’s going to be the last piece of the puzzle in terms of completing our new team.” Lowden has also employed a new retail finance specialist to lend their expertise when needed.
Another objective for Iveco is to manufacture and assemble vehicles locally. “To this end, we have formed a new joint venture with the Larimar Group,” says Lowden. “We are hoping to start production in September 2013. This is a huge step in the right direction for us. Not only will it enable us to be more competitive, but it means we can cater to the market that favours supporting locally made vehicles.” All Iveco vehicles will be manufactured locally – with the exception of the Daily, Iveco’s medium commercial vehicle range.
The joint venture will also create about 1 000 jobs, and will improve Iveco’s rating on the Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE) scorecard. Prior to Lowden’s arrival, there was no B-BBEE in place at Iveco.
Yet another exciting development in the pipeline is to integrate the Astra brand (a niche brand focusing on off-road applications, especially in the mining and the construction industries) into the Iveco network. This means Iveco will have vehicles across the board in its brand portfolio – from the Daily right through to 50-tonne rigid dump trucks.
Lowden continues: “Another exciting prospect for 2013 will be our participation in the Johannesburg International Motor Show [JIMS] in October. Iveco is going to make a big return after missing the last show! We’re hoping to launch three or four brand new models to compete in big sectors like the four- to eight-tonne category. At the moment that sector is dominated by Japanese and Indian vehicles, and through our three joint ventures in China, we’re planning to bring out some affordable models to offer some stiff competition. One of those will be the Iveco 682, which will revive the famous Fiat brand in Africa of the sixties. It will be a rugged, reliable model with lower level specs, but still have the benefits of Iveco.”
In terms of the new Stralis Hi-Way, which recently won an award in Europe and featured very strongly at the 64th IAA Commercial Vehicles show in Hanover (see the November 2012 issue of FOCUS), it seems South Africans will have to wait a little longer to see this vehicle here. Explains Lowden: “Due to the poor fuel quality in this country, we have to develop a Euro-4 version of the Hi-Way (the European versions are Euro 5- and 6-compliant). So this vehicle is still under development – it’s undergoing some ‘African tuning’ if you like. We’re hoping to launch it either at JIMS in October, or early in 2014.”
Of course, introducing so much change in such a short period of time, however necessary, is not without challenges. Says Christophe Longuet, network and marketing manager at Iveco Southern Africa: “It’s not always easy to get people to change their mindset. Those who are entrenched in the ‘old Iveco way’ are sometimes resistant to change.”
But Lowden isn’t going to let that deter him: “I was brought here to turn the business around, and that’s what I intend to do. Iveco is really going places. These are very exciting times for us. At the moment we’re still playing catch-up and the competition has a head-start, but our availability stats are improving. We’ve already broken into the top 10. We plan to give our competitors something to worry about!”