A new normal

In Person of Interest, November 20229 MinutesBy Dave McCoidDecember 15, 2022

We were itching to catch up with Rafael Alvarenga and ask how his first year as Scania New Zealand’s managing director has been. Twelve months after his family’s somewhat unorthodox arrival, the country is clear of lockdowns. Aside from work, we hoped the Alvarengas were finding the 2022 version of ‘Kiwi normal’ a great place to be.

We first met Rafael Alvarenga about a month into his time as managing director of Scania New Zealand. He and his family had arrived during Auckland’s spring lockdown, delaying any ability to ‘get their Kiwi on’, so to speak. Lockdown also hampered Rafael’s ability to tour the traps and meet crew and customers. Zoom was a man’s best friend. Move on 12 months and when we meet Rafael at Scania New Zealand’s Wiri HQ, there’s certainly a comfortable air about him, that of routine and familiarity amid the exciting-yet-formidable goals he has set the company.

On the home front

A year ago, Rafael told us the family were excited to be coming to New Zealand, and they had a to-do list before they arrived. “I can tell you that list has doubled!” he laughs.

“We were able to start going out just before Christmas, and shortly after, we headed north, staying in Paihia and going to see Cape Reinga, the Bay of Islands and Kerikeri. It reminded us of the beaches back home in Brazil. Then at Easter, we went to Rotorua and Taupo. More recently, we took a day trip down the Forgotten Highway and got our passports stamped at Whangamomona. That was fantastic. Everyone was just amazed at the scenery. My kids said, ‘Do Scanias come here?’, and I said, ‘They go everywhere’.”

The Kiwi way of life was thrust upon Rafael, but families often have to find their own way. How has acclimatising to Aotearoa been for Fernanda and children Maria, Isabela, and Gustavo.

“They have settled in well. The first six months were spent establishing their circle of friends and their own routines, and then after a while, they wanted to get out and start seeing things. I would say they are well adapted, and the New Zealand people have been very nice with our family.”


Rafael took over from Matias Lindstrom. The order books were full and record sales achieved. Rafael’s skill sets were in aftersales and support. You might say one’s role was creating the energy and other’s maintaining it.

“For me, it’s about targeted skillsets, aftersales, and support. Our vehicles are perfect, but a vehicle that is not running makes no money. For us, the future is massive in aftersales, so customers trust we are here for the long run.

“I was positively surprised at the skillsets here in the technical staff. Top Team is a competition we have among the Scania technicians. It’s run locally, regionally and then the final is in Sweden. New Zealand technicians have won the last two out of three global competitions and came second in the other. It gives me great confidence we have the right skillsets in place. But we need to ensure we keep great capability, that we have the tools, workshops and training at our Christchurch training centre as the tech evolves.

“We are working on processes within the support network, so the experience of a customer in any workshop they visit is seamless and in the shortest time possible, ensuring parts are pre-picked, works orders created and the right technician in place before the customer arrives.

“We have new facilities in Hastings and Hautapu in the Waikato, expanding into areas we are needed.”

As they have the world over, supply chains and labour have been hot topics at Scania.

“The global supply chain is all about planning, whether it’s 50 or 200 days out, you just must plan for that. We were surprised at how big the global supply-chain issues got in the first part of the year, due in part to Covid, but also other events like wars etc. Scania globally had not seen anything like it in our history. We now believe the worst has gone, and supply chains are starting to smooth out. “Shipping and getting the trucks here is still challenging, and even the local body- building backlog. However, we are now [late September] still taking orders for completed deliveries in 2023.”

“There is a shortage of technicians. Everyone has the same problem. We are not just looking for ready trained technicians, but training tomorrow’s technicians. The opportunities available with Scania mean they can end up working throughout the business, both vertically and horizontally.

Business Transformation Team

“Scania is transforming as a company, looking to become a more sustainable business with new technologies and digitalisation. It was time to start looking at that in New Zealand also, so we are prepared. The team had to be standalone, though, not people tied up in the day-to-day running of the business. The project has four key pillars; the first is digitalisation – not just KPIs and dashboards, but the digitalisation of the business to eliminate wasted time, repetition, and cumbersome processes. Second is performance – focusing on customer operations and ensuring they are getting the most out of the vehicle they have purchased. Three is network development – demand today will not be same as demand tomorrow. What investments do our workshops need to deliver in tomorrow’s business? And four is driving the shift – sustainability and new technologies. Scania is backing battery-electric vehicles for a large proportion of the transport task. Technician training, preparation, and ensuring we can help spec the right vehicle for the customer are key. Next year, we aim to sell double-digit EV sales, and by 2025, be selling 10% BEV trucks. The company’s global goal of 50% BEV by 2030 must then be ours. We must work with stakeholders in terms of all aspects, including a green-electricity charging infrastructure.”

The New Zealand model

“At a management meeting in Sweden in June, it was clear we are being watched positively. Even at Scania, what we are doing is pioneering, achieving in three years what often takes 10. Our growth and how we are building the business here have become somewhat of a reference. That has guided some of the decisions that mean we are fully connected with Sweden.”

The critical question from last time

New Zealand steaks and beer? “New Zealand meats we are finding very good. We are back into BBQ season, and we like the rump cap. Beer? Speight’s, and some locally brewed draught beers are really good. I’ll keep updating you on that!”