Michael and I just completed our visit to the Volvo facilities in Sweden making it back to the US late last night.
Susan Bonivich with Volvo Penta Americas was an incredible host with having everyday planned like clock work. The Volvo team and Swedish people were overwhelmingly accepting, and went out of their way to make us feel welcome.
We had a great opportunity to learn much about the Volvo culture, business philosophy and the pathway for improving communications with servicing issues.
We visited the foundry were they build the 16 liter Diesel Engine, and Volvo Commercial Trucks. An incredible experience that truly lends to the company Volvo has evolved. The process from a sand/clay and graphite mold, to pouring iron, to building a completely working diesel engine at the end of the assembly line in the same facility is staggering. The experience of thinking only a few people preview the engines from mold to pour to assembly attest for how advanced the company is, the robots are incredible that handle the heavy lifting. The environment was sterile as a test lab, the Volvo workers were extremely positive and inviting to show their work. This was just a small example of the types of work being performed from a dynamic company. To think Commercial Equipment (Buses), Industrial Equipment, Trucking, Auto, etc. are just a few other businesses outside of the marine products. A large percentage of Aircraft Jet Engines built today have Volvo parts in them, and developed by Volvo Aero Space right in Sweden. Gothenburg is the home to several other industries, both in the telecom and electronics, it is obvious how everyone has embraced the Volvo brand, appears to be 6 of 10 autos or more on the road are Volvo.
Volvo picked us up and commuted to the Test Facilities on the Coast of the Gothenburg Archipelago, the morning was filled with the opportunity to meet other dealers from around the world, Finland, Brazil, China, to name a few. The President of Marine (Stephan Carlsson) gave a presentation as did others that work within the senior management to provide us a greater understanding of where Volvo has been and glimpse into the future. Volvo owns a large market share gas stern drive around the world and has much to do with their leading the way for the new EPA compliance for emissions. The engineers expressed the market share will grow as competition are having to make proper changes to comply with that new standards, where as Volvo is already exceeding the standards.
We met several others including Michael Rooney, VP of Service for EU and Asia. We discovered a great opportunity to best understand the communication chain from Consumer, to Volvo Dealer, to Builder/Mfg. to Volvo Factory. They believe it is important to have the builder in the equation to track known issues and to assist with pressure on assisting the dealer to provide a better customer experience. This was invaluable for us and has already assisted with supporting a few customer concerns that were in process.
The afternoon was spent on sea trials aboard 4 different boats equipped with every available option provided by Volvo/Garmin. They staffed each with a Volvo Rep and Captain that ran each vessel through the paces highlighting the options and how they operate, including the functions with the Volvo/Garmin Glass dash. This was an invaluable lesson and proved to be a great opportunity for us to challenge our mfg. to provide these awesome features as our customers are only aware of a fraction of what the product can do to make boating more enjoyable.
Late in the afternoon they provided a recap of the day and allow us an opportunity to provide a voice on ways to improve their market strategy, we discussed two topics, improving the dealer communications, and pushing the advantages of Volvo Penta to the consumer back to the dealer, opposed through the traditional method of through the product/builder and boat shows. They have so many options to offer and we really felt they are missing the most important part of the equation, the end user.
The evening was exceptional, they took us by boat 45 minutes North to Marstran Island to enjoy a meal that was incredible. How many times do you get to see a 1600’s circa Swedish Fort from the Water. A summer time fact, days are longer and nights shorter, Sun down is 10:30 p.m. and dark around 11, Sunrise is 4:30 a.m. We departed for dinner at 6:30 and returned around 10:00 and to think you could boat on the water like day this late into the evening is incredible! It was one of the many highlights to the trip.
We traveled to the Volvo Museum and toured from the beginning in the late 1800’s with two partners joining their collective strengths to later provide an auto that rivaled Ford for Europe. This later branched into Commercial Equipment, Buses, Aero Space, Marine, etc. Volvo has become a huge sponsor in Golf and Sailing and had an incredible display in the Museum highlighting the sponsorships of the sporting events they support.
We later enjoyed an incredible afternoon spending a few minutes with the other dealers attending, then completed our trip with a dinner of a Swedish King at an incredible restaurant, photo attached.
This was a trip of a lifetime, and greatly appreciate the opportunity to represent the Galati organization at such a function, I must say, Sweden is incredible, Volvo is awesome, this truly was one of the highlights of my professional career.
Written By: Darren Plymale