It’s now nearly six months since Robert Grozdanovski took over as MD for Volvo Trucks in the UK and Ireland.
It’s been a steep learning curve for the 51-year-old Swede, who’s had to get used to living in a new country and learn the peculiarities of a new market while readying the business for challenges ahead.
These challenges don’t just relate to the ‘B’ word and its potential impact on trade, but also with how the Volvo Trucks brand stands out in a crowded marketplace, how it introduces new technology to customers and how it handles the move towards electrification.
So, now he has half a year at the helm under his belt, what have been Grozdanovski’s first impressions?
“I have many impressions!” he said. “I am coming from a rather newer part of the EU in Central East to a market with a different climate, history, culture, with a long Volvo Truck presence amidst a turbulent political situation. My general impression is that there is a lot of experience, competence and dedication across our team and dealer network. The market is mature; customers are professional and sophisticated in ways of doing business and with what they expect from us.”
He added, “At the same time, it is a balancing act to manage tradition and sophistication so that it does not create complexity in the way we do business and serve our customers. We need to challenge ourselves and constantly develop our business set-up, yet keep things simple, fast and efficient in order to improve performance. I feel that continuing to manage this in a profitable way will be a major focus area going forward.”
With this in mind, Grozdanovski is upbeat about the outlook after a strong new vehicles sales performance in Q1.
“Parts performance has started slower than anticipated,” he said, “but we are seeing signs of improvements in the last 2 months. We will monitor this and are increasing our focus to fully understand if this is part of a ‘Brexit’ effect or not.”
He continued, “In the near future, we do expect truck volumes to be slightly down overall. There are plenty of deals ‘in the air’, but not so many being closed at the moment, but we aim to keep our share of the ongoing business.
“However, we need to improve retail performance. Parts sales should remain flat, but remain on the high level we already have, nevertheless I expect our used trucks team to be busy re-marketing the contract hire (buy-back) returns expected this year.”
Moving on, we were keen to find out just how the industry in the UK compares with Central East Europe where Grozdanovski was previously based.
“There are both differences and similarities,” grinned Grozdanovski. “Whilst British and Irish hauliers predominantly drive domestic haulage on the islands, Central East dominates on international haulage in mainland Europe. Given the maturity of the economy, more expensive labour and the limited space on the islands – it triggers a need for specialised, tailor-made trucks for a specific purpose.
“For an old sales engineer like me, I’m euphoric every time I see all the different axle configurations, superstructures and special truck models lined up whenever I visit a Truck & Bus Centre!”
“When it comes to services & solutions, the UK and Ireland is at the forefront. Our high service contract penetration and VFS leasing penetration is good proof of this.”
But what about the similarities?
“The similarities are aplenty,” concluded Grozdanovski, “Our customers’ requirement for a total transport solution is a reality wherever you go and they have similar demands on high product quality and low fuel consumption, but the shortage of technicians and drivers is evident in both markets.”