Varied view of Volvo VISTA

By: Greg Bush


Volvo’s highly competitive International Service Training Award entered a new phase when it switched from practical problem solving to a virtual scenario for the semi-finals

Varied view of Volvo VISTA
A virtual test replaced the practical leg of the VISTA semi-finals

 

It’s the VISTA with a difference in 2022. The global pandemic put paid to the previously scheduled competition in 2020 and, with COVID still lurking, Volvo took the safer route with this year’s competition.

Claimed to be the world’s largest service market competition, VISTA (Volvo International Service Training Award) is, under normal circumstances, held every two years. Teams of Volvo service market professionals from the Volvo Trucks and Volvo Buses global service network vie for the chance of reaching the semi-finals and then competing for a place in the finals in Gothenburg, Sweden.

For 2022, 106 teams containing over 400 contestants from Australia and New Zealand signed up for VISTA. Following two theory rounds and a pit-stop challenge, the field was narrowed to six teams representing the Australia-NZ region for the semi-finals. VCV Sydney Prestons had two teams make the cut, while VCV Brisbane North and CMV Derrimut had one team each. New Zealand’s two teams came from Lower Hutt and Whangarei.

Volvo Group's Nick Bowes (second from left) mingles with the contestants before the semi-final

However, to the surprise of many competitors, the semi-final round was held in a virtual digital environment at Volvo Group Australia (VGA) headquarters in Wacol, Queensland where teams branched off into rooms, their tools made up of computers and laptops. A stark contrast to the previous VISTA where the semi-finals took place in a practical environment in Gothenburg.

Nick Bowes, VGA’s technical competence coach, has been involved in the VISTA process for 23 years. He says due to the uncertainty of international travel, Volvo made the decision to keep the semi-finals in the home countries and in a virtual scenario.

"Because of previous VISTAs being hands-on and practical I was a bit concerned that this might be too much theory-based, because they’ve already done three theory rounds to get to here," Bowes says.

However, he points out that Gothenburg finals will be practical hands-on.

The contestants ready to go into battle

"That then tends to put a different spin on everything because you can be very averse to theory-based exercises. But putting it into practice really does bring out the top technicians."

Richard Singer, services and retail vice president at VGA, says the virtual semi-finals are also indicative of how the competition has evolved over the years.


RELATED ARTICLE: Australia's big representation at VISTA 2018


"In the good old days they used to fill out forms, tick boxes and actually post the results over to Sweden," he says.

"From a technical perspective, it’s evolved a fair bit as well, of course. The trucks are a lot more technology- driven and a lot of it is around intellectual computers as opposed to the old mechanical type of training."

Singer says VISTA was originally initiated purely as a technical training for technicians, but now it covers customer service advisors that come as parts staff and costing clerks.

Richard Singer, VGA services and retail VP, offers a last minute briefing

Singer says the competition provides an opportunity for dealership staff to expand their knowledge and skills, while highlighting the importance of working as a team.

"It’s a fairly large commitment from a retail network to put any teams in. There is also a tremendous amount of work that’s done in the first three rounds to get to the semi finals," he adds.

"We had an extremely high level participation rate through all three rounds, which was excellent. But, talking to a few of the dealership managers that have teams represented in the semi-finals, it’s a fantastic achievement. They’re super, super proud of it.

"Of course, we’re quite proud that three out of the four Australian teams are coming from company-owned stores as well."

Australian semi-final champs, the ‘Volgaroos’ from VCV Prestons, will be heading to Gothenburg, Sweden for the VISTA final

CMV Derrimut, the non-company-owned dealership, was represented by Andrey Kuchmezov, Natasha Bartolo, Jeremy Prats and Ryan White under the team banner of ‘Just Gonna Send It’. Kuchmezov is closing in on 10 years with CMV Derrimut, where he undertook an apprenticeship. This was his third time in a VISTA competition but admits to being surprised at the virtual nature of the semi-finals.

"We expected to have practical but now it’s more computer-based," he says.

"I’m familiar with computers because I’m from an IT background. But it’s time limited and a bit stressful."

The VCV Brisbane North team: from left, Nitesh Chand, Simon Nendick, Prachel Deo and Jeremy Corfield

There was also some angst in the VCV Brisbane North team. Pracheel Deo was in the middle of a break in Fiji when he was called back for the semi-finals. Deo, who has been with VCV for well over six years, has had VISTA experience previously, as has his teammate Simon Nendick.

Nendick has worked at Brisbane North for 13 years; before that he was with Volvo in the UK.

"This is about my 10th time through VISTA," he says. "I’ve been to Sweden for the finals. It’s great – a good week.

"This year is totally different from any other. Because when we used to go over there it was a lot more practical. This year, the semi-finals are all on computer, it’s all virtual," he says.

The CMV Truck & Bus Derrimut team: from left, Ryan White, Andrey Kuchmezov, Natasha Bartolo and Jeremy Prats

Nendick admits to struggling through the first part of the semi-final. "It’s very difficult, but it’s a way to learn."

Following the semi-finals, the results were sent to Sweden and the winner announced the following evening during a live broadcast from Gothenburg.

As it turned out, the ‘Volgaroos’ from VCV Prestons emerged as the winner. The team will represent Australia at the finals in Gothenburg in September.

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