Mike Biss, Volvo Penta

The Volvo Penta brand is making inroads into Zimbabwe’s industrial and mining sectors.

Volvo Penta has been in existence since the start of the 20th century. Could you introduce the brand and provide an overview of your operations in Zimbabwe?

Our industrial side of the business is spread over Zimbabwe as a whole and we also service the southern region of Zambia. The marine side of the business is located in Kariba, in the north of the country. We have held the Volvo Penta agency since 2000. We saw an opening in the industrial market segment and opened an industrial office in Harare to support the existing sector; Industrial Stationary Engines (Gensets, Pump Sets, etc.) already in the country and to provide an outlet to supply new sets into the market as well as to offer support in the mining sector with Versatile Engines. Volvo Penta is fairly new to the industrial market in Zimbabwe, but has been very successful so far; companies such as Sandvik have signed up with Volvo Penta and most of their new Loaders and Haulers are supplied with Volvo Penta power plants. Sandvik are impressed with the fuel economy, low emissions and reliability of these engines. Currently, the Zimplats Ngezi mine has 8 x TH430L Haulers(30T). Freda Rebecca gold mine currently has 3 LHD15  Loaders (15T). The growth in this side of our business depends on the demand for platinum from Zimplats and gold from Freda Rebecca. The machines run 24/7 and require servicing every eight to ten days.

This business has grown a great deal in the last four years and we expect this to continue, as long the demand for these precious metals is there. Stand-by power is also in demand due to load shedding. Generators are build as per the customers requirement and delivered with full support, warranty and  spare parts.

With industrial machinery being one of Zimbabwe’s biggest imports, how streamlined is the process?

The process for importing our machines is quite straightforward. The lead time for customers is normally four weeks, as the gensets are built to spec. The problem we face currently is sourcing the foreign currency to pay for the sets/engines. We now have to rely on our customers to provide the external funds, but not everyone has access to these funds. One would hope, going forward, that the Central bank would step in and assist, as power generation for industry and mining are the key role players in earning much needed foreign currency.

What are your competitive advantages?

We try to keep pricing competitive for the product we offer. The brand name sells itself with its history of excellent fuel economy and reliability, as opposed to some of the other brands on the market. Volvo is one of the very best known brand names in the world for trucks and cars and, while some of our competitors also have strong products, one of our key selling points is our aftermarket support.

How has demand for your engines changed in line with challenges within the global market?

The demand for Volvo Penta engines within Zimbabwe is lower than usual, however, the market is depressed and this tends to have a knock on effect with the demand. We are optimistic though and hope that investors come to invest in Zimbabwe, which in turn boosts the market and increases demand throughout all the sectors.

What training do you offer your technicians?

Our employees are regularly sent on training courses in South Africa, where they are kept up to date with changes on products and developments which are  applicable to our environment. They also have access to the Volvo Penta Partner Network, where they can take computer base led training courses online, where they also have access to online information and engine diagnostics.

What are the objectives for Volvo Penta over the coming years?

We want to continue maintain the Volvo Penta brand’s prominent position in the market. The new relationship with Sandvik is a great step for Volvo Penta in the mining industry. Our market share within the industrial and mining sector is growing steadily and we hope this will continue in years to come. Our core objective is to promote and support the Volvo Penta brand, and to ensure it delivers accordingly.

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