Interview: Roger McCarthy
Following the dislocation of the Global Financial Crisis, Roger McCarthy ushered in a new period of stability and growth when he took the helm at Scania Australia in 2009. Now, he says, his job here is done.
After eight years of heading Scania’s Australian business unit, Roger McCarthy has announced he will move on to take on a new challenge with the Swedish organisation. In a final interview with Prime Mover magazine, he reflects on the change in direction Scania has undergone under his leadership and how he managed to double the brand’s share of the heavy vehicle market in less than a decade.
Q: When you arrived in Australia eight years ago, Scania was sitting at a comfortable three to four per cent market share, with some in the industry arguing the brand had reached a glass ceiling. After doubling that share during your tenure, what would you like to tell these people?
A: That they were wrong. In all seriousness, though, if we hadn’t realigned our strategic thinking, we would possibly still sit at a three to four per cent share of the market today. When I arrived, we were very successful in the specialist vehicle and fire-engine market, for example, but there was somewhat of an acceptance – both internally and externally – that we would remain a niche player in the market, partly due to Scania’s modular design philosophy.
Q: So how did you break the spell?
A: While those early customers in the specialist and emergency vehicle market are still with us today, we knew that we had to do more to grow the business beyond those confines. We also knew we needed a strong local dealership network to get there, which comes at a high cost. It was a classic catch-22 – how do you build a strategically placed dealer network to support your future clientele when you need a strong-enough customer base to sustain setting up such a dealer network? Some manufacturers choose to import only when faced with that question, but we quickly realised we wanted to control our dealer network.
Q: Would you call that commitment the most profound decision you had to make in your time in the job?
A: Absolutely. It was a substantial fixed-cost investment, so we knew there was no turning back and the focus had to be very much on growing the business – even though we understood we were a premium cab-over brand with a limited range and couldn’t serve all segments of the market. But we simply said ‘here we are, and now we get moving’ – it was the only choice. That or closing down.