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Famco's Paul Floyd on its enduring partnership with Volvo

ANALYSIS, PMV, Volvo

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In an age where most marketing messages about construction vehicles tend to emphasise their economic or green virtues, there’s something refreshing rugged about the Volvo’s new FMX.

The FMX truck, a step-change from its Volvo FM chassis roots, has been purposely built for the rough and tumble of construction work.

The FMX took its bow at Bauma earlier in the year before making its European debut in September. It’s now the Middle East’s turn and Al-Futtaim’s heavy machinery and construction equipment company, Famco, the sole distributor of Volvo trucks and buses and Volvo construction equipment in the UAE took the chance in December to present it to the local market.

A ride on one feels smooth and well powered across the sort of dry and undulating terrain that will be its stock and trade in the region.

Volvo describes the new truck as having exceptional driveline performance based on the power and efficiency of the 11-litre engine (330 to 450hp) or the 13-litre engine (380 to 500hp).

It also includes a newly designed upper grill, an aggressive-looking lower front and a three-part steel bumper that features a rugged skid plate and protective bull bar.

As Volvo says: “this is a tough truck designed for demanding road conditions”.

The marketing blurb makes a point of saying that Volvo sought out feedback from drivers as it looked for inspiration when it drew up the lengthy list of new features.

When you get up close and personal with it, it is clear how and why that has affected its design. Volvo boasts that the truck has a new, high-clearance boasting, robust, modern exterior, and that’s obvious.

The fact that it all comes together with the operator in mind is a nod to those they talked to before an eraser was applied to the FM’s original drawing board, and also the company’s now extensive range of machinery.

Volvo used to be a car manufacturer but it’s not anymore and the FMX feels like a machine first and a vehicle second.

The end of the 2010 saw the company launch a number of new machines in the market, including its new Pipelaying machine and the FMX, both of which are being distributed in the UAE by local partner Famco, an appropriately heavyweight player.

They are substantial machines and ones which Famco is expecting to make a substantial increase to its business in the UAE.

Looking at the flurry of machines that have surfaced lately in the GCC market, Paul Floyd, managing director of Famco, says the company is basing these launches on an optimistic outlook for the market and Famco’s own prospects in the 2011.

“I can assure we haven’t gone crazy... yet,” he jokes. “We’ve managed to come through the downturn faster and healthier than a lot of our competitors. It’s not been an easy time but we recognised what was happening very quickly and we took action. We think we’re one of the first distributors in the UAE right now actively marketing 2011 model vehicles – a lot of our competitors are still working on 2008/09 models.”

He continues: “We were aggressive in getting on with it. A little of our stock shifted to rental but we also worked with AB Volvo to relocate some units where we could. Some of it went back into the global market and other regional markets here.

“It was a must-do situation. It is no secret that when the downturn came, importers like ourselves had inventories which were geared up for the boom years and we had to adjust. It’s nice to come out of the doldrums and put some exciting new product in front of customers. We’re looking to have success with it.”

Floyd has seen quite a lot of changes in the UAE market since he first moved to the region in the 1990s. There’s a nice synergy between his own career at Famco and previously at Volvo in Saudi Arabia, with the two companies themselves and the re-imagining of the FM as the FMX.

“I think to stay ahead you constantly have to re-invent yourself,” he says. “Keep raising the bar because service expectations change. Trying to get better is the challenge in this business, it doesn’t matter what market you’re in you’ve have to listen to what customers want.”

Famco has been associated with Volvo for almost 25 years (since the mid-1980s) in the UAE when, as Floyd describes, a lot of major players were looking to get into the market and actively seeking partners.

“I think that some private companies were looking to put agreements in place and sometimes some things fall for you and some things don’t. It happened for everybody here at was certainly a good time for Al-Futtaim and Volvo. We haven’t looked back since.”

The fact that this partnership has endured for nearly three decades is something he argues gives the company in edge, “as some of our competitors have different distributors in different emirates.”

Famco is split into five divisions including its Truck and Bus Division which is all Volvo and its Construction Equipment division which also extensively uses Volvo’s range as well as some other products including portable compressors and telescopic handlers. The downturn has seen it, like its customers, lean much more into the rental market.

“It’s definitely a growth area for us,” he says. “I don’t think capital expenditure has stopped but different customers have different abilities to raise credit lines and we’re just tying to help them with a solution.”

As part of Al-Futtaim, Famco has access to credit on its customer’s behalf, and Floyd makes the point that Volvo has also been prepared to assist where it can.

”If we can arrange in raising credit lines, we will. Sometimes this can be through Volvo as well, through the Swedish banks. Then there’s the rental option, including long term rental beyond six months. We start with a clean sheet of paper to work out what the requirement is.”

Floyd describes a company that has built a robust offering to market to customers, a selection that perhaps wasn’t there before. It is apparent that the crunch in credit has led to a re-think at Famco regarding its own requirements and its role in the marketplace, and how it can adjust to the change in demands.

“Rental is a different kind of business, and we’ve hired a specialist divisional manager. We’ve also signed a franchise agreement with Volvo Rents, who provided us with IT systems to let us to run the rental business according to global best practice.”

“You can’t sit on the fence and do nothing. Rental was a clearly a growth area and one we had to be in. If you’re not providing it, you’re not providing a total solution to your customers.

“There are no real numbers that say how big the market, we can only go by what our customers and our competitors say – they’re not providing numbers either! – but there’s clearly demand.”

Floyd says that Famco’s diversity has proven to be a virtue. “During the downturn, some of our businesses like our
compressors business and our storage and handling business were having record years. It was nice to be able to offset the downturn against some growth.”

With 2011 now underway Floyd is feeling positive about Famco’s prospects for the coming months.

“A lot of our capital expenditure programmes are underway again and we’re developing our network in the emirates again. We currently have four branches in the UAE and will open a new branch in Dubai Investment Park in Q1 2012 which will be a state -of-the-art facility.

We’ll also look to expand further in Abu Dhabi in the next two to three years as we’re committed to the growth we see there. I’m delighted to be here now and coming out of the downturn in good shape.”

X-Factor final look for the FMX

  • Heavy-duty engine protection helps protect vital components.
  • New rugged steel fuel tanks have been raised for higher clearance.
  • A new, higher air intake position on the day cab is available as an option that optimises the quality of the air to the engine, while also improving visibility when reversing.
  • New preparation kits and mounting options for working lights and reverse lights are available to choose from, making it easier to meet specific requirements.
  • New robust rubber mats with flanges to keep dirt and mud within the mat area for easy cleaning.
  • Three new interior trims to choose from: vinyl seats and door panels, textile seats and vinyl door panels or plush seats and door panels. Leather seat is optional.
  • Three new interior accessories contribute to improved driver comfort: a table with dedicated space for cups and pens, a practical storage box and a paper holder in water resistant fabric.

 

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