The situation Michael May stepped into in this new role as Managing Director of Iveco in Australia can be said to be a challenging truck maker’s conundrum. Iveco has a respectable history and sturdy relationship with the Australian trucking industry, and trucks like the Acco have a place in the hearts of many who grew up with these vehicles.
However, these are fast changing times and any brand has to be light on its feet to keep up with the changing technologies and evolving requirements of the trucking industry. Michael is well aware of the situation – coming from an engineering background and previously serving as general manager for Mercedes-Benz trucks here in Australia.
“The way people are buying products has changed, you have got to offer a solution, it has to be a complete package,” says Michael. “In Iveco, we have got all of these pieces, in my view. We need to bring them all in and offer a solution that’s packaged. We have got finance, we have got good maintenance and repair, we have good dealers and the right product. We have got to get all of these key components right and then take that to market.
“Because the fact is that the trucks are pretty good to drive, they are a good product and the reliability people are getting is awesome. We need to get to the point where we are on the list of options for an operator.”
Two of the models which are available, but which have made limited headway are the Iveco Eurocargo and X-Way.
“I think of Eurocargo as a separate unique opportunity for us,” says Michael. “It’s a bit of a hidden secret, there’s some really good stories out there that people should be able to latch onto. In my mind, Eurocargo has the potential to be the product that you would choose.
“If you have to drive a 16 tonne truck around, you would use this truck, it’s beautiful, it sits on the road really well, but there is a lot of competition in this segment. We can position ourselves for people who are interested in comfort, reliability, safety, the whole European package.
“The S way product is still in our future, so, at the moment, we are offering the X-Way product. In Europe the X-Way is a kind of crossover vehicle, but due to the conditions in Australia, in that we are heavier and hotter, the X-Way is a basic truck for us.”
The X-Way itself is out in the market and has had some success in certain areas, but it would appear that many truck buyers are not quite sure where the model sits in the overall scheme of things. Part of Michael’s job will be to clearly define where it stands in the Australian market.
In many ways, the issue for Iveco when it comes to working out exactly what to do with the X-Way is very similar to problems which have affected other European Brands in the past. Not having a 15 litre engine available in the prime mover limits the model’s ability to compete strongly at the top end of the heavy duty market. However, this does not preclude them from being able to compete strongly in the interstate and occasional B-double market, as well as offering a wide range of heavy duty rigid trucks.
“We are working in the space to really redefine X-Way,” says Micheal. “It is going well in rigid applications, but it is more about giving people flexibility. Quite often people will buy a truck as a prime mover to pull a single trailer but want the flexibility to move it up in weigh, if needed. That’s exactly where we are looking at.
As a whole Iveco are working globally towards improved sustainability. This is more of a priority in Europe, where the company are offering LNG and electric solutions, and there’s exciting links with Nikola on the fuel cell using hydrogen as well.
“Our region needs to take this opportunity, in my view, you start thinking about you this fiscal stimulus to improve the environment,” says Michael. “Why wouldn’t you do what countries like Germany are doing and put your money where your mouth is. There is so much money available now, which we should be investing into the future and giving us a bit of hope, particularly around emissions. There is nothing at all in the way of incentives at the moment.
“We have got skills here and we are looking for opportunities where we can be innovative. This country is a good place for technologies to get validation because we have heavy loads in high temperatures. We are looking at innovative evolutions in what we provide here locally. We have got to start somewhere, we are having discussions with the Australian Renewable Energy Agency around the hydrogen possibilities. We are also talking to renewable energy producers and we are really trying to understand how these pieces fit together.
“We can’t ignore this topic any longer. Iveco sees offering an alternative or a choice as critical. We are a smaller manufacturer, but that does give us the opportunity to be more disruptive into the future.
“We have had to change our mentality, if you talk about speed and being agile, and being flexible to adapt. These are the kinds of words that I like. In any organisation you have to overcome certain amount of inertia. There is a real willingness here in Iveco and a good cross pollination of different people. We need to be thinking differently about the skill sets that we have and how we can use them.”