Every opportunity

In View from the Top, August 20238 MinutesBy Dave McCoidSeptember 17, 2023

Michael May heads IVECO in this part of the world at an exciting time in the company’s life – a new model, new energy throughout the organisation, and opportunity at every turn. Always receptive to a yarn with passionate industry folk, Michael sat down with New Zealand Trucking at the Brisbane Truck Show this year, and we posed three questions for his consideration.

S-Way brings IVECO’s European big-seven front-runner into the Australasian game for you. In some areas, you’ve moved from a model behind to a model ahead compared to your competitors. How will you optimise and maximise that in the markets you’re chasing?

“A lot of the European products are pretty impressive, and it’s pleasing we are not just competitive but leading in some areas. There’s a lot of pent-up excitement here now. S-Way is a great-looking truck with a great reputation in Europe, where it’s grown market share significantly.

“Our decision to source the latest product from Europe was a seriously considered one and came as a result of listening to what our customers need and asked for.

“Once you’ve made that decision, it brings another set of challenges having the full suite of product options at your disposal. It’s a bit like being a kid in a candy shop.

“You have to understand what fits the market needs, and that determines what you select. You end up with a product aimed at the target markets, ones we think will be successful and allow us to represent the best version of ourselves in what is the most competitive and highest- volume market segments.

“That means growth has to be planned systematically. It is important the improvements we put into reliability and quality are reflected in both the customer and the network experience.

“The safety and emissions advances have to be supported with network knowledge, training, tooling – so we can support the product. That’s what will determine our reputation going forward.”

Considering that answer – and with the benefit of S-Way offering you a clean sheet, of sorts – if a truck operator in your target market were asked five years from now to sum up S-Way and where he/she thought IVECO sat in the market, what answer would you hope he/she might give, based on where you sit today?

“Yes, that’s a great question, and obviously, we’re looking at a much longer journey than five years, but that’s a great timeframe to check progress, for sure.

“This project started four or more years ago for us, evaluating, validating and testing.

“For me, what would I like to see? I would like us to develop true fans of the brand. A strong, reliable truck, great fuel consumption, clean, and a great experience with the network. Customers who appreciate not just the piece of machinery, but everything the brand encompasses and stands for. No marketing can compete with positive word- of-mouth in the marketplace.

“A great reputation is built in the yards, and talked about in the lunchroom.”

At the AARC drive day in Victoria earlier this year, you spoke to the subject of tomorrow’s S-Way – alternative propulsion and autonomy. You touched on working with universities and places of high learning to deliver a relevant product to a cleaner world. Can you talk about that in any more detail? What might that look like for IVECO here? Also, what contribution will your work here make to the global product?

“IVECO, globally, does not have the size of some of its direct competitors. Collaboration and involving partners with specific areas of expertise is something IVECO takes great pride in. Our partnership with PLUS in Europe working on autonomy, and our fuel-cell technology work with both Nikola and Hyundai are great examples.

“Being flexible and, where it makes sense, bringing technologies together in order to progress quicker and more effectively, is something we want to bring into our region. Choosing to source product ex-Europe obviously impacted manufacturing operations here, but we wanted to retain skills built up over many years. ‘How do we tap into the talented and innovative people we have to add value?’ It was a huge question for us, and our Customer Innovations Centre in Keysborough [Victoria, near Melbourne] is part of the answer.

“If we want to be an ‘attractor’ as an industry – and we do – then, collectively, we have to do a better job of promoting the opportunities we have in what is a pretty advanced sector.

“Our philosophy is one of growing our own. Born in the brand, growing up in the brand, linking ourselves with tertiary institutions can help grow people from within.

“In Europe IVECO has been involved in commercialising university mindsets – linking the academic and real world. Opportunities that universities love. Take our grant from the Victorian government. It has allowed us to engage with Swinburne University to help explore and better understand things like total cost of ownership.

“Together, we can build pathways of awareness and leverage the thinking that comes from such institutions against the backdrop of an Australian operating environment, one with higher speeds, weights and operating temperatures compared to many markets – it all contributes to a higher level of product validation.

“And even at the trades level, there’s a constant shortage, so we’re working with the technical colleges to increase the trade-qualified people.

“In terms of autonomy at a local level, for me, the medical industry is a leading example. I can’t speak for New Zealand, but Australia has an amazing reputation for innovating and breaking new ground in the world of medicine. They have shown how to optimise the academic/reality interface; researching, testing and trialling with phenomenal results. Why can’t we be the same?

“We need to take advantage of work already done by IVECO with partners in Europe and Asia and ‘lean in’ here in our region. We need to play our part in leading the way.”