Redefining the trucking industry

Bangalore: "It is nice to learn the media describing other companies' vehicles as 'Volvo-like vehicles'," says Volvo India managing director Ulf Nordqvist. He has reason to be proud. Volvo India is now redefining the commercial vehicle manufacturing business in the country with its high-tonnage, air-conditioned driver cabin and simple-to-operate modern systems.

For Nordqvist, India is a familiar level-playing ground. As Volvo India's project director he was actively involved in setting up the eight-stage assembling plant at Hoskote near Bangalore. Later, as the company's board member, he chipped in substantial managerial inputs. "After looking at cars we decided we should go in for manufacturing trucks."

Nordqvist was also Volvo Truck's vice president (business development), looking after its European business. "One can see a perceptible change in the domestic trucking industry. People are now going in for higher capacity vehicles. Our growth percentage is a proof of that," say he.

In 1998 Volvo India's first truck left its factory premises. Some days back, it rolled out its 1,000th truck. Apart from the usual goods transport sector, the company is also in the earthmoving equipment industry with its 30-tonne, heavy-duty trucks, excavators and wheel-loaders — the last two are imported. The company's trucks have more or less replaced smaller machines at Singareni Collieries.

Volvo India has sold around 250 vehicles to coal mines. Apart from trucks, it also trades in diesel engines that find use in the marine industry and gensets. Launching its fully-built buses sometime back, the company is now redefining the bus segment with its low-height vehicles built on bus chassis, and not on truck chassis as done by others. Nordqvist talks about Volvo India's drive ahead. Excerpts:

Has the economic slowdown impacted Volvo India's performance?

It is true that the slowdown has had some impact on our sales, but it is not consequential. In a market that is going down, we are growing at an annual rate of 35 per cent. Our repeat purchase rate is around 65 per cent.

The high price is one deterrent factor when it comes to your trucks and buses. Are you adopting any focussed marketing strategy?  Way should anyone buy your truck when he gets two normal trucks for the same price?