Volvo’s new global president Martin Lundstedt jetted into Brisbane this week for a whistle-stop 30 hour visit this week, overseeing the first sod turning at VGA’s new $30million headquarters in Wacol as well as meeting key customers, personnel and dealers.
Lundstedt had never visited Australia, even during his time at his previous employer Scania and if his enthusiasm and energy at the Volvo factory and at the new HQ site is an indication, it will probably not be his last.
Lundstedt amazed Volvo staff and the trucking media with his warmth and enthusiasm particularly after just stepping off an overnight flight from China.
The Australian truck media had a limited amount of time with the Volvo president but during the brief discussion the former Scania boss, who was head hunted to Volvo last year, reiterated his support for UD, stated that Australia was a market which Volvo learned a lot from and declared that the company’s four key brands would be given more autonomy.
The groundbreaking ceremony for VGA’s new HQ, which is situated at the Metroplex Westgate business park next to the Ipswich Motorway, saw a variety of industry operators and luminaries on hand to see Lundstedt, the Swedish Ambassador and key Volvo Mack and UD customers turn the first sods for the development that will house the new head office, a new dealership and service operation.
Volvo claims the new development will be at the forefront of green building technology using solar power, LED lighting and rainwater harvesting, The company says the energy-efficient facility will also include a new paint and panel workshop.
Lundstedt underlined the company’s “great confidence in the Australian business” by noting that it had invested more than $27 million in local manufacturing in recent years.
“Manufacturing in Australia has been in decline for a number of years, as it has in many other countries, but the outlook for our business is strong,” he said.
As the new President of Volvo, having only taken up his post in October last year, Lundstedt has inherited a pretty good balance sheet with a remarkable three fold increase in global operating income up from $AUD1.44 million in 2014 to $AUD 4.11 million in 2015, largely on the back of the efficiency drive and cost cutting globally across the Volvo Group under his predecessor Olof Persson since the GFC.
Lundstedt, 48, was drafted in to replace Persson and his appointment was seen as a for Volvo Group to reignite growth and expansion after the consolidation and economic conservatism of Persson.
Lundstedt also reaffirmed his commitment to the UD brand, saying it was “extremely important” to the Volvo Group.
“Although we are open to find strategic alliances where we think it’s beneficial for everyone, we stand behind the brand and are absolutely committed to the range that we currently have.”
Lundstedt was accompanied by his compatriot and UD Trucks’ executive chairman, Joachim Rosenberg, who is heading back to Japan to take the reigns of the former Nissan Diesel operation, which so far has proved to be a difficult beast for the Swedes to harness.
Rosenburg is determined to make UD work and while he wouldn’t elaborate on the plans has a clear focus on lifting Japan’s number four truck manufacturer and making it a success.
Lunstedt’s local lieutenant Volvo Group Australia president and CEO, Peter Voorhoeve underlined the Swedish brand’s confidence in Australia, proclaiming that the company was happy to be operating in an economy with 2.5 per cent annual growth “a figure many European countries would love to see. I believe with that in mind, you can still do good business in Australia and work profitably.”
“We have done some great work setting up the Volvo Group globally, and I think we are in a very good space right now. But, economies of scale is one of the most overrated terms in history,” said Veerhoeve. He went on to point out that VGA’s combined market share of 26.2 per cent across Volvo, Mack and UD makes it the heavy duty “market leader” in Australia.
“We’re a hands-on business and focus on what matters, both globally and locally.”
With the new $30 million headquarters set to be finished in the third quarter of 2017 and Volvo boasting a strong war chest given the cost savings in recent times as well as strong sales across all its brands in Australia, things are looking bright for the Big Swede down under.