Aussies battle it out at VISTA

By: Greg Bush

Teams of Volvo service market professionals from around the globe are competing for a place in the VISTA World Final, with Australia intent on winning the championship for the first time.

Aussies battle it out at VISTA
The Australian VISTA participants are on their way to Sweden for the semi-finals.


It was an excited bunch of Volvo Group Australia’s (VGA) service personnel who assembled at its Wacol, Queensland, offices in early April. Six teams, containing 22 Volvo employees which were about to embark on a trip half way around the world, received last minute instructions on what they were likely to encounter during the upcoming VISTA (Volvo International Service Training Award) semi-finals.

VISTA had its beginnings in 1957 when Volvo began a competition for its technicians in Sweden. Now in its 60th anniversary, the biennial global event attracts teams from six continents battling it to become VISTA world champions.

This year, for the first time, the semi-finals, which run up until April 27, will be held at Volvo headquarters in Gothenburg, Sweden. The winning finalists will then travel to Curitiba in Brazil for the world final, held from June 25 to 29, to battle it out for the VISTA world championship title. While Australian teams have reached the semi-finals in previous competitions over the years, none have yet to win the coveted honour.

VGA vice president of after sales and service was a VISTA semi-finalist in 2002

It’s an exciting prospect for the semi-finalists, especially for those who have yet to venture outside Australia. More important will be the invigorating experience gained from competing against other nations and bringing that enthusiasm back to their respective Australian dealerships.

Former VISTA semi-finalist Tony O’Connell, now vice president – after sales and service – with Volvo Group Australia, knows exactly what is going through the minds of many of the competitors.

Tony, who previously worked for SKF, joined Volvo at its Toowoomba dealership in 2000 before being thrust into the 2001-2002 VISTA competition. Neil Heinemann, now VGA’s national learning and competence manager, was also a member of the Toowoomba team which made it to the finals in Gothenburg at that time.

"To have never been out of the country and to have that opportunity to go across for five days, it was life changing. It was fantastic," Tony recalls.

"What they’ve done now is, rather than running those semi-finals in the market where we used to run them here in Australia, they’re running them in Sweden, so it’s a greater investment to get more of our people over.

"And that’s probably the other reason why they’ve run the semi-finals this year in Sweden because it allows a lot more of our frontline staff to get to the origins of the brand and certainly the head office of the company as well," he says.

"Positivity breeds positivity. It’s the talk around the lunch rooms when they get back, sharing their experiences, and that motivates the rest of the team to inspire to get to that point and try.

"It’s very much a team environment; it’s that mateship environment on the floor," Tony says.

Neil Heinemann, VGA's national learning and competence manager

In the VGA training rooms at Wacol, Tony’s former VISTA teammate Neil Heinemann and the VGA crew were giving the Australian semi-finalists a three-day briefing.

"They’re putting them into some of the scenarios that they might encounter when they get there," Neil explains.

"We can’t build their technical skills up any higher; they’ve already got that. So what we’re trying to do here now is also teach them how to work better as teams.

"It’s not just about the technical side; we will run some personality profiles on these guys as well.

"If we can get it all to gel here, it also means when they get back into the workshop and into their dealers, they’ll work better as a team there," he says.

Neil’s introduction to the road transport industry came through his father and an old Volvo F86.

"He still owned it up until five or six years ago," he recalls. "It’s been in the blood for a long time."

Neil explains that the teams can contain anywhere between two and four members, with four the ideal number.

"We like to see an apprentice, a technician, someone from spare parts and someone from administration because that’s a really nice spread across, and from a learning point of view it works quite well.

"But if someone wanted to, they could put a team of four technicians together."

Fue Challenge

Of the six Australian teams, five have four members, while ‘Team I-See’ from Volvo Commercail Vehicles (VCV) Chullora as two.

"In this case you’ve got one person who’s a little bit more administrative and the other person that’s technical," Neil continues.

"It will be harder for those guys without a doubt, so those two have got to do the workload of two each.

"It doesn’t mean they won’t be able to do it, but they’ve going to have to manage their time very well."

In 2017, 184 teams from Australia and 31 from New Zealand signed up to enter VISTA.

Following two theory rounds and a pit-stop challenge, Australia was left with six teams which qualified for the semi-finals in Gothenburg, including ‘Team 1’ from CMV Truck and Bus Derrimut which received a ‘Wild Card’ entry.

New Zealand has two teams which qualified for the semi-finals.

The Australian semi-finalists are:

  • Team Euro – South Central Trucks
  • Team SCT – South Central Trucks
  • Team Invictus – VCV Townsville
  • Team I-See – VCV Sydney Chullora
  • Team Mack – Truck Centre WA Kewdale
  • Team 1 – CMV Truck and Bus Derrimut

The New Zealand semi-finalists are:

  • Team Invercargill – Truck Stops Invercargill
  • Team W.I.P. Rebellion – Truck Stops Whangarei

These eight teams will be among 56 teams from Volvo Trucks’ international markets vying for a place among the 40 teams which will qualify for the World Final which will be held from June 25 to 29 in Brazil.

Carl Dybdahl, Katharine Godfrey, Samuel Morris and Ben Treagus from Truck Centre WA Kewdale are on their way to Sweden to compete in the VISTA semi-finals.

Read more on VISTA in Owner//Driver's May 2018 edition.

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