Stefan Carlsson has held a wide range of positions across the Volvo Group organisation, including roles in finance, parts, logistics, production and sales. Since 2005, he has been president of Volvo Penta’s Europe division, as well as the global head of Volvo Penta’s marine diesel engine segment. Before joining Volvo Penta, Carlsson gained experience in the commercial vehicle industry in positions such as the head of aftermarket and workshop development for Volvo Trucks Europe, as well as general manager of the Volvo Group’s parts and logistics facility in Gent, Belgium.
What’s your take on current market performance?
We heard lots of talk about the market being up last year, but to be honest, looking at the numbers for the sector we’re in, we saw a little increase in Europe, as boatbuilders took market share in the US, and a slight decrease for those builders in the US, so broadly it was pretty flat. That said, we did see better momentum toward the end of the year.
The start of 2018 has been a bit more optimistic – order books from the major builders look full into 2019. We’re looking at modest growth between 0-5%.
Are you looking at alternative sources of power?
Everyone is looking for simplicity. We will have some sort of electrification coming up, when the acceptance levels are there. It is a long-term trend – we’re not seeing it in planing boats, but in the displacement 8-10kt sector, where they’re using electric or a combination. We’ve been discussing this a lot over the past 10 years. When the battery technology is there, when the weight and the price balance is right, and that will come in a couple of years, then there will be a real breakthrough.
The Seven Marine acquisition last year caused quite a stir. What was the thinking behind it?
We asked ourselves, should we continue the strategy of being a full line supplier? We witnessed the trend for day boating and outboards – it came down to the simple question - do we not be a full line supplier or do we go for outboards? Seven remains a very small segment of the market, but we can utilise their technology and will develop a wider range, so we can supply our normal OEM customers with a better range.
The big news for you on the engine launch front was your move into the 1000hp marine leisure engine market for the first time with the new D13-1000 inboard and its equivalent from the Inboard Performance System (IPS) range – the D13-IPS1350, unveiled at Cannes. Are you seeing a trend at the larger end of the market?
The IPS1350 drive offers lower fuel consumption, higher top speeds, and lower vibrations – because of its compact size it gives you more space in the engine room. It’s available in twin, triple or quadruple installation. Quads provide the equivalent of 5400hp. We’re now growing in pod technology at the higher end of the market, up to 120ft. We are now partnering with the likes of Sanlorenzo, Azimut and Amer.
And at Düsseldorf you launched the Easy Connect app. Does that reflect another trend?
Easy Connect lets boat owners connect to their boat via their smart device, enhancing the experience both onboard and at home. It gives the owner access to the engine, boat and route data, directly on their smartphone or tablet. It’s about promoting ease of use to the consumer and their family and our dealers, adding as much as possible so that the end user can really control the boat. It’s not easy bringing such developments to market though – there’s a lot of training needed for the dealer network, much of which we now do online. The dealers are really hungry to get Easy Connect, younger dealers especially. It’s good for us too as we get closer to our dealers and we get much more data fed back to us, giving us much more analysis of the product.
Are you optimistic about the future of boating?
People want to be out on the water, that’s a fact. The simpler we make it, the better. Developments like joystick control and IPS mean that today customers that are completely new to boating are buying a 40-50 footer, that wouldn’t have happened before.