Scania Finance has highlighted the actions it took at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic to help sustain its bus and coach customers hard-hit by lockdowns and the dearth of inbound tourism.

The company says it took immediate action to help its bus and coach customers in order to live up to the company’s core value of putting the customer first, as schools and borders closed, entertainment shut down and airports were deserted, and as school and charter bus operators found their cashflow evaporating almost overnight.

Scania Finance says it demonstrated exactly what it means to have a financial business partner who is supportive in good times and bad.

Scania Finance Australia’s commercial finance manager, Craig McFadyen, says over the past 18 months the business has supported around 25 bus customers by rescheduling payments over three-month periods.

“Thankfully, the vast majority of these customers are now finding their way back to work. We recognised the dangers for their businesses very early on and through contact with them, initiated by us or by them, we discussed options to enable them to retain their vehicles and give them some hope that their businesses would survive. We made it as easy as possible for them to apply for this assistance, and taking advantage of this facility will not impeded future borrowings prospects with Scania Finance,” Craig said.

“During 2020 we were able to zero out their repayments for up to three months and in some cases, we continued this activity for a further few months. Some operators were able to move to payment on an interest-only level for a short time, before reprising their normal payments.

“Obviously COVID-19 has been a very distressing and unexpected development that none of our customers planned for, and it was our focus to stand by our customers through the difficulties presented by the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns,” he said.

“Scania Finance is a global business partner to many bus and coach operators, and as hard as it may be to believe, our experience in Australia was far from the worst the Scania bus business experienced. So, there was no question that we would be able to step-in to offer some respite on repayments for businesses doing it tough. We have proven that we’re here to help our customers as much as we can, to survive in these difficult times,” Craig says.

“In South Australia, we have seen customers getting back to normal as school has returned and some charter work has recovered. In other states some operators have tried to diversify their businesses, for example into rail replacement, but again the unpredictability of the lockdowns has had a negative effect.

“During the past 18 months we have been health-checking our customers, and to let them know that we are here if they need us,” he says.

“Customer response has been exceptionally positive, unsurprisingly, given the very personal nature of many of these family-owned and run businesses, and the lifetimes of effort they have put into evolving them,” Craig says.

The company said it is focussed on tailoring finance packages to suit each customer’s situation, just as much as the Scania vehicle offer can be individually tailored to the operator’s needs.

“We’re able to offer attractive interest rates and flexible structurers using our dedicated business development managers in each state, so we’re able to cover the entire country. We work with body builders and our Scania salespeople to ensure our customers get the best possible financing product that suits their needs,” Craig says.

“In good times and in bad, we support our customers’ businesses as much as we possibly can,” says Joakim Ewers, Head of Sales within Scania Financial Services, which services 63 Scania markets globally through a network of 1,200 employees.

Over the past year and a half, Scania Financial Services said that globally it has offered a lifeline to many bus customers in need, adjusting the payment plans for customers financed by Scania. Compared with banks and other financial suppliers, Scania’s representatives are proven experts on bus and coach financing, as Joakim explains:

“For a conventional bank this kind of financing is a relatively small part of their work; for us it is core business. We know the market, the product and its value, and together with our global Scania dealer network we are very close to our local customers, so we are familiar with their daily challenges.”

And he adds that no matter in the world where a customer contacts Scania, the company’s representatives always strive to be straightforward and quick to respond.

“We want to make it simple and smooth for our customers, to integrate everything from financing and insurance and vehicle delivery to repair and maintenance into a ‘one stop shop’ for them.”

Scania’s offer within financial services has gradually expanded over the years, though the purpose of its solutions remains unchanged: to make vehicle ownership easy by offering leasing, financing and insurance based on each customer’s needs and abilities.

The two key offers are tailored financing that suits any customer’s business plan and budget, whether they are buying one vehicle or expanding their fleet  and insurance, providing efficient claims handling and replacement vehicles when needed.

“The core of our insurance offering is uptime,” he said.

“A coach is ultimately a company on wheels. Vehicles need to be back on the road as soon as possible after an accident, and loss prevention services can help to avoid an accident in the first place. The entire Scania organisation – from Scania Parts, Scania Assistance and our claims support service, to our workshops and insurance specialists – stands ready to get the vehicle repaired with minimal fuss and paperwork.”

Recommending a certain package of services to a particular customer is ultimately all about understanding their day-to-day operations, including what Joakim Ewers describes as their “pain points”.

“We always tailor the services to each customer’s particular needs and possibilities,” he said.