Word from the top

Torbjörn Christensson and Claes Nilsson with the new Volvo FH – one of the vehicles they hope will help drive the company to a 15 percent market share.

With much ongoing activity in the Volvo Group, the opportunity to speak to Claes Nilsson, president of Volvo Trucks, and Torbjörn Christensson, MD of Volvo Trucks Southern Africa, at the recent launch of the new Volvo FH and FMX ranges was too good to pass up.

You may know Claes Nilsson from his starring role in Volvo’s The Hook YouTube video. That video, with over 2,2 million views, has made Nilsson stand out from the crowd of corporate VIPs. Fortunately, Nilsson came out to South Africa for the recent launch of the new FH and FMX ranges at Gerotek (you can read all about these fantastic machines on page 40) and I was able to get a bit of quiet, one-on-one time with both him and Christensson.

“We got a lot of attention from that,” he laughs when asked about his role in The Hook. After all, it’s not every day one sees the president of one of the world’s respected original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) hanging 21 m above the Gothenburg (Sweden) harbour in 8°C weather with 40 km/h winds blowing …

“Customers are very positive about the way we’ve been showcasing our products. Transporters have been telling us that it’s finally become ‘fancy’ to be a transporter – even their kids have been telling them they want to drive these trucks!” Nilsson smiles.

Of course, there is a new generation of operators out there, and Volvo – like all premium OEMs – knows that its new generation of trucks has to fit the mould. “We felt that the new generation of products has a lot of innovation which also requires new ways of going to the market – I think our team has done a fantastic job, trying to visualise new products in a very exciting way,” he smiles.

Nilsson is keen to point out that the Volvo brand, as the premium brand within the Volvo Group, is the one into which all innovation and subsequent value for the customer will be put first – with the different brands positioned to meet different customer and market segment demands. “Of course, we will never be the cheapest brand in any market,” he emphasises, “we are really targeting those customers who demand the best for long distances or rough terrain.”

That’s not to say that those innovations don’t filter through to the other four brands within the Volvo Group – it’s all about economies of scale where having the volume from five brands allows the sharing of basic technologies, developing new generations of engines and so on. “It’s a heavy investment and research and development activities benefit from it,” he adds.

Locally too, the benefits have been reflected in the group’s improved market standing of second position (as of the third quarter). Christensson points out that the company is happy to be there for the moment and is not concerned with trying to top Mercedes-Benz. Rather the focus is squarely placed on expanding its network and boosting Volvo’s heavy-duty market share with the new models. “Our target for 2015 is to have a 15 percent market share – we’ll then see how the new trucks are being accepted and grow things from there,” he says.

Both men are also enthusiastic when it comes to their perceptions of local operators. “They face some really challenging times but I think they are very efficient and professional in the way they drive their businesses,” notes Nilsson.  

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