Helene Mellquist: Volvo Trucks
Helene Mellquist is the Senior Vice President of Volvo Trucks International and has a global view of trucks and transport. Helene has held this role since March 2016 with responsibility for commercial activities of Volvo Trucks in the Middle East, Africa, Australia and Asia. Following her ‘This is who we are’ presentation at the Volvo Innovation Days held in Sweden Ms Mellquist spoke one-on-one with Prime Mover’s Peter Shields.
PM: We have seen a huge array of new Volvo technologies during the last few days. Where do the next five years take the company?
HM: The five-year plan for us is to continue the journey and continue to provide the customers with day-to-day efficiency and uptime. Those are the essentials. To be on the ground and also to continue to show these innovations that you have seen such as Volvo Dynamic Steering and dual clutch transmissions. We will continue with that type of development as well as electric and gas powered vehicles. Also, we see the diesel engine and those services associated with it will need to be there for a while.
But we will have a transformation where we will see more electromobility and in time we will have a long-haul solution, quite likely within five years. I don’t know if it will be commercially viable everywhere but we will see them at least and know that they are there.
PM: Volvo has demonstrated that it is well advanced in technologies such as platooning and autonomous trucks. What’s next?
HM: In the area of connected trucks I think we will have a lot more to offer, actually. Now, for example, we are already looking into artificial intelligence and machine learning and how can we actually use the algorithms to support the customer in gaining a quicker understanding of what is happening with the truck. And then also connecting that into the society as well. I think this type of technology will explode over the next five years.
I don’t know how much we are able to implement of this technology because it gets more and more complex. That’s also very much about the reception of the customers. In Australia you have such mature customers, so that will be one of the things where I see this will happen.
PM: Do you have any concerns of being left behind by competitors or alternatives?
HM: I think that Elon Musk has been very good and he has put the pressure on all of us to deliver. I think we were all doing this underneath cover but he puts the pressure on.
We should never ignore our competition. I’m a true believer in market economy and I really love this because that makes our competition brave and also makes us do our best every day.
No, we will not be left behind. We need to be really humble and understand what is happening around us.
There is a great book Hunger in Paradise which is written by a Danish management consultant who says don’t be complacent. You need to have the hunger even in Paradise in order to stay alert.
PM: In Australia we are always impressed that a company such as Volvo Trucks keeps coming up with new and innovative ideas. There must be a high level of risk capital put into developing autonomy or natural gas without an absolute guarantee of return. Is it that hunger that drives it or is it the dollars?
HM: There are a lot of players who would just like to cut in and take a part of our business. We have something they don’t have and that is we have the relationship with the customers. We have the retail network where we are supporting the customers’ relationship every day. We have the teams with the competencies to understand the customers’ businesses. And then, also, all the way back, we know how to produce the things. Having all that in-house is an asset going forward.
But I am not complacent. I think that we still need to continue to develop our retail network. It has to be alert and continue to add on to these valuable products that we are doing day-to-day. We will not stop doing that.
PM: Other than in the Chinese market itself, do you see the Chinese truck manufacturers becoming players in other truck markets throughout the world?
HM: I think they are already and they can very much do that. The difference in the Chinese market and also elsewhere is the importance of service and presence to the customers. That is really where we, at Volvo, are different.
It’s important to have the quality and reliability and also to have the contact day-to-day. They may think that it’s only the price of the truck but in such as sophisticated market as Australia it takes more.
And when you stand out in the desert and its 50 degrees with a truck that is broken down, that really matters.