GREENSBORO, N.C. -- When Göran Nyberg, the recently appointed president of sales and marketing with Volvo Trucks, moved into his corner office at Volvo’s Greensboro, N.C. headquarters in October, one of the first things he requested was a large map of the Volvo dealer network.
That map is the most prominent fixture in his office today, a point of pride for Nyberg, but also a constant reminder of an area of the business in which continuous improvements are always attainable.
Nyberg, who came to Volvo Trucks North America by way of the United Kingdom, says he has held virtually every position within a Volvo dealership throughout his career, so it’s an element of the business that will receive plenty of attention as Nyberg settles into his new role.
“If you look at that map and the number of dots we have compared to many of our competitors, we are fairly well represented,” Nyberg told Truck News during a recent sit-down interview. “Over the years, that has not always been the case for Volvo and of course, our competition has been using that against us. But today, we can be quite proud of our network.”
Today, Volvo has 343 dealers in the US and Canada, and Nyberg said they continue to invest in their facilities and increase their capacity.
“Over the past 24 months, we have increased our bay capacity within our dealer network by 20%, which is quite impressive,” Nyberg said. “Having dealers investing in their businesses tells me two things: it tells me they believe in the industry and in the Volvo franchise, and it tells me they are willing to invest their money into their franchises. I feel quite good about the set-up we have. It can always get better but we’re already in a good place.”
The personable Nyberg brings a varied background to the position, including a stint as a log truck driver near his hometown of Sundsvall in northern Sweden. He pursued an engineering degree and then got back into the trucking business. He has served many roles with Volvo throughout the world, including in Malaysia and his latest stint in the United Kingdom. His first impressions of the North American market are positive, but he recognizes there are some unique challenges in this region.
“I am impressed with the North American market both in terms of volumes and speed on the roads,” he said. “I think it’s a technology-driven market and of course, there are other prerequisites than in any other market in the world…After two months into the job, I can see the business is moving faster here, the decision-making is faster and the demand on short lead-times is higher, which needs to be managed and supported.”
Nyberg spent most of his first few weeks on the job travelling the US - with a trip to Canada coming soon - to meet with dealers and customers and to learn as much as possible about the North American market. One of his priorities is to expand Volvo’s market share, and this means focusing on market segments where Volvo’s presence has been lacking.
“I think Volvo has done a good job when it comes to growing and getting a firm position in the long-haul part of the business,” Nyberg said. “We will defend and continue to push in that area. There are other areas where we have more business to capture, where we have products that will bring value to our customers.”
Day cabs, regional-haul, petro-chemical, food and beverage and vocational markets are among those that Volvo will be targeting more aggressively. Nyberg said he’d like to see Volvo grow its Class 8 market share to 13% within the next few years, up from the 10.7% it owns today.
Nyberg also vowed Volvo will be bringing forward technologies that will make its trucks even more appealing to customers, including enhancements to the company’s integrated powertrain, which could deliver further fuel economy improvements over the next few years. He is pleased with the I-Shift’s penetration into the North American market, and noted 80% of Volvo trucks now have Volvo power under the hood and of those, nearly 50% are being ordered with the I-Shift automated manual transmission.
Nyberg believes the trend towards smaller-displacement engines will continue, and he sees potential for the D11 to gain a stronger foothold in the North American market.
“If you look at Europe today, the Volvo D11 is making a lot of inroads into the business,” Nyberg said. “We have the D11 here in North America as well and we have seen good results, in regional haul, for example. I believe there is headroom for the 11-litre engine in the market and I think the big block era might be challenged by these new (smaller displacement) engines.”
Volvo also will remain active in pursuing alternative fuels, whether it be the suddenly mainstream natural gas, or dimethylether (DME), a fuel Volvo has been bullish on for several years.
“I think diesel will be the main source (of fuel) for the next several years, but I’m quite sure that alternative fuels will take a share of the business,” Nyberg said. “If you look at the full spectrum of alternative fuels available today, we believe DME is the most efficient both from a cost point of view, technology point of view and from an efficiency point of view.”
Volvo is working on developing its own liquefied natural gas (LNG) engine, due out in 2014, which will utilize the company’s high-pressure direction injection engine technology.
In addition to the dealer network and emerging engine and fuel technologies, Nyberg also is passionate about truck safety. He sees further opportunities for technology to improve the safety of a truck’s occupants, as well as other motorists.
“Ten years ago, we were looking at reactive safety. If an accident comes, we need to have air bags, frontal protection and we tried to protect the driver and the people around the truck in a reactive way,” Nyberg said. “Now, we are investing in technology that proactively avoids an accident from happening.”
He was speaking of technologies like enhanced cruise control, lane departure warning systems and blind spot detection systems. Nyberg expects more fleets to buy into these systems as they come to understand the cost savings they provide.
“On top of that is always a drive to do more with the driver,” Nyberg added. “We know driver behaviour is key to any KPIs that we measure. We support driver training and make sure drivers are on top of the technology we can offer. Where I come from in Europe, many transport companies have stopped incentivizing drivers on mpg; they incentivize them on behavioural parameters that deliver mpg and of course, also take down the total wear and tear on the truck.”
Looking ahead to next year, Nyberg said demand for new trucks is expected to be “on par” or slightly better than today’s volumes.
Look for video from our interview with Nyberg in an upcoming episode of Transportation Matters at Trucknews.com.