Future of High Quality Trucks in Saudi Arabia
of world class quality are assembled in Jeddah. One of only two
truck assembly plants in the Kingdom, Arabian Vehicles and
Trucks Industry with just 65 employees — three quarters Saudi —
delivers 650 Volvo trucks a year. Two years ago with just 35
employees, output was 350. In 2007, General Manager Imran Malik
expects to pass the 1,000 level.
So rapidly is the demand for the trucks developing that a second
assembly line is planned. The expansion of the market is set to
continue as the demand for trucks will be driven by the huge
construction projects of the Kingdom's industrial cities.
Nasser Bayram, director, commercial division, was confident
about the future of high quality trucks in the Kingdom. "The
initial cost of a truck is less than 25 percent of what you will
spend on it," he said, "including fuel, maintenance and repairs
over its life." The key calculation, he said, was the purchase
plus running costs versus the residual value and, most
importantly, the reliability of the vehicle during its working
life. Fuel costs over the life of a truck are considerable and
driver training plays a big part in determining this. "There can
be a difference of 30 to 40 percent fuel usage between drivers,"
said Bayram. "We have a team of driver trainers who offer the
service free. Our customers get free driver training." The
spin-off is that the drivers use less fuel and are taught to
drive large trucks safely. "We are not just a seller, we try to
make the customer's business our business. That includes the man
behind the wheel," Malik confirmed
The project started in 1999 when Volvo and Zahid Tractor teamed
up in a 25/75 partnership and a start-up team visited the
Kingdom to initiate the plant. A team of young Saudis was sent
to Volvo in India to train on the assembly line and in the
skills of assembly and some went on to Volvo in Sweden. So far
has the project progressed that Volvo sends trainees to Saudi
Arabia for training in the Gulf area.
"One of the things we focus on very much is developing Saudis,"
said Malik. When Volvo came in 1999, they were clear that they
were not here to stay for the next 10 or 15 years. "It was
always the local people that have to be trained; it is the same
in other countries, so why not here?" The plant provides
opportunities of good mechanical training for young men.
Everyone starts on the pre-assembly line learning the basics of
tool use and part naming. "They take to that very well because
they see there is a pathway up the chain," said Malik. The
supervisors and team leaders prove it; that is where they
"We also have special guys working here with speech and hearing
challenges," said Malik. "They are given the same opportunities
as others." One who started on the assembly line is now one of
the team leaders in charge of building trucks.
Staff turnover is almost zero. Malik puts that down to the
opportunities on offer for a career and the rapid expansion of
the plant. Volvo trucks have climbed sharply to an 18 percent
market share. The quality of the plant's output is audited along
with all the other assembly plants around the world to ensure
they produce to Volvo's assembly and safety standards.
Each truck is fitted with sensors that, as it nears completion,
are linked by Internet to Volvo in Sweden. There, the accuracy
of the build and conformity to standards are checked and, if
If so, it can go anywhere in the world and be tracked and
carries its history with it. "It's a sort of birth certificate
for your truck and during its life, the records are updated as
it is serviced and repaired," said Malik. "We are among the
leaders when it comes to world quality. It is in fact simpler to
get the quality right in a small plant than a big one because
you can react quickly to potential problems."
The unit has one of the best assembly times in the world, 84
hours for a four-by-two truck, which is about 30 hours quicker
than any other assembly factory of a similar size in the world.
Next to the assembly plant is a service depot. Malik saw that is
very useful. "We often get the service department popping in to
see how a truck was put together. It often cracks some servicing
problem," he said. When the joint venture assembly plant was set
up, it was placed next to the service centre for that reason.
With the Kingdom aware of the need to develop a post-oil
economy, the assembly and distribution of trucks and possibly
other automotive products holds tempting prospects both for the
manufacturers and a whole generation of young Saudis with