Torbjorn Christensson, president of Volvo Group Southern Africa. Picture: VOLVO TRUCKS SOUTHERN AFRICAa
Torbjorn Christensson, president of Volvo Group Southern Africa. Picture: VOLVO TRUCKS SOUTHERN AFRICAa

Volvo Trucks increased the number of vehicles it delivered across the group by 19% in 2017 at 54,951 units as the worldwide truck market continued to grow.

Locally the market is not so buoyant at the moment, but even so, in its 18th year of operating in SA, the company secured a 16.25% market share with 2,074 trucks delivered. It also increased its bus deliveries marginally and its engine and power solutions division, Volvo Penta, upped its deliveries last year by 11%.

Torbjorn Christensson, president of Volvo Group Southern Africa, says there is potential for the local market to see increases reflecting those of the rest of the world. "SA will also boom if the political situation is stabilised," he told a press conference.

Should conditions be ideal then Christensson will be hoping to see further increases in sales. Currently it sits behind market leader Mercedes-Benz and second placed Scania but Volvo kicked off 2018 with a good January, its best month yet, in fact, delivering 188 vehicles.

It is continuing to invest locally too, with a new Pinetown dealership and further driver training programmes. This month is started a new upliftment driver training programme using R1.7m provided as a "gift" from Volvo Group in Sweden. The new programme is aimed at currently-employed drivers and it will take on 100 candidates initially. However, it is unclear what level of existing skills those drivers need to have.

On the technology front, do not expect any big developments in SA in spite of recent global announcements by the parent company.

"Energy-efficient products and solutions means significant savings for our customers and at the same time reduced impact on the environment," says Christensson. "Volvo Group works with continuous improvements supported by measuring and target-setting as well as considering the use of alternatives to minimise the above aspects’ environmental impacts. The latest developments and technologies are targeted at achieving exactly that."

One way it plans to implement a basic improvement is to introduce the dual-clutch I-Shift transmission for Euro 3 engines later this year. Other options are under consideration of course, but are some way off.

This includes autonomous driving, which is a big discussion point in the global truck industry. There could be major benefits for transport operators on routes such as the N1 between Johannesburg and Cape Town and the N3 to Durban.

"You do not need to have drivers — it can be done tomorrow," says Christensson.

While Volvo has autonomous trucks for mining internationally, there are no discussions with the local mining industry at present, although we are aware discussions have taken place with other truck manufacturers.

For Volvo Trucks it looks like another year of when it will be striving to increase its market share rather than a year in which it will set new trends.