Sergey Alexandrov, General Manager of ITEMF Expo
The commercial vehicle market in Russia has faced intense pressure in the recent past. How is the market placed today, and how does it impact the Comtrans exhibition?
At the start of 2017, there were 8.09 million commercial vehicles registered in Russia. Since 2009, the number of commercial vehicles has increased by over 13 per cent (by approximately 1 million vehicles). Regarding the ‘age’ of those vehicles, it is estimated that over 50 per cent of them were manufactured until 2002. Thus, every second commercial vehicle in Russia is over 15 years old. Notably, over 70 per cent of the overall commercial vehicles in Russia are domestic brands. Of the 8 million commercial vehicles, around 50 per cent are LCVs, 45 per cent are Heavy-Duty (HD) trucks with buses and coaches constituting the remaining five per cent. After the historic peak of new commercial vehicle sales registered in 2012, the market suffered a dramatic downfall in subsequent years, reaching its bottom line in 2015, which was as low as in 2009. The gradual recovery of the economy and the deferred demand since 2015 brought at the end of last year and beginning of this year very promising figures of 40 per cent growth, in the first half year of 2017 compared to the same period, in the previous year.
This upwards trend also reflects at Comtrans 2017 to be held from September 05 to 09, 2017 in Moscow. Compared to 2015, companies have expanded their exhibition booths owing to increased levels of competition. For instance, foreign companies, lost their market share in the last three years compared to domestic Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) producers. The expansion of exhibition areas are on the rise not only due to the current market revival, but also due to the manufacturers’ expectations that the market will continue to grow. Companies which gave the exhibition a miss in 2015, like Volkswagen commercial vehicles, DAF and Hyundai Truck & Bus, are returning to Comtrans this year, a testimony to the revival. Subsidiaries and representation offices in Russia of the European ‘Big Seven’, as well as PJSC ‘Kamaz’, ‘Gaz Group’, ‘Uaz’ are back at the show again. For the first time in the history of Comtrans, PJSC “Avtovaz” will participate in the exhibition. In 2017, Comtrans will be the leading commercial vehicle show not only in Russia and CIS but also in Europe.
What is the medium and long-term outlook for the Russian market, concerning light, medium-duty and heavy-duty trucks?
Almost all analysts and our partners are optimistic of growth over the next three years. Most of that is based on revival of the economy coupled with the fleet renewal. Other reasons include preparation for mega sports events (for example 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia) among other state purchase support programs. A broad consensus has forecast a 20 per cent growth for LCVs, 40 per cent growth for HD trucks, and 30 per cent for bus/coach segment. I would not dare to look beyond 2020 owing to the possibility of many factors that hold the potential to disrupt the growth outlook.
How is the service sector around commercial vehicles developing in Russia, with emphasis on keywords like fleet management, telematics, service and maintenance contracts, and drivers training etc.?
The Commercial vehicle market is undergoing a major transformation. Service will be a major developing factor in the industry, influenced by increasing customer demand coupled with stronger competition in both cargo and passenger logistics. It is expected that all OEMs will be competing over the next few years in a bid to better their offerings for all the stakeholders alike: be it drivers, fleet operators or the end customer. We will definitely see more internet-driven solutions both for clients akin to ‘Uber’ like aggregators in the cargo transportation space. The objective will be to increase overall performance and efficiency levels. Russia, owing to its geographic framework is certain to be a great market place, for new and smarter technologies.
How will this development reflect at Comtrans?
The headwinds from commercial vehicle market have dropped with the bottom line in 2015-2016 (showing a 40-60 per cent decline in comparison to 2012). More so due to the strong relations with major market players like Kamaz, Gaz Group among other key international producers giving us the chance to make Comtrans 2017 a grand success. I would like to specially thank the Association of European Businesses in Russia, with a special mention of its CEO – Dr. Frank Schauff for the valuable support extended. As mentioned above, there are so many new trends and recent technological developments of great interest to professionals. It is for this reason that we launched for the first time, a flagship conference – Moscow Commercial Vehicle Summit which is certain to become a recognised platform for exchange of ideas and presentation of strategies among decision-makers and opinion leaders. Comtrans was established in 2000. However, this year for the first time, ITEMF Expo, a joint venture of ITE Group (Great Britain) and Messe Frankfurt GmbH (Germany), has organised the fair.
What are the key changes that one can expect in this edition of Comtrans?
It’s a fact that Comtrans is already a well-established brand known not only in Russia but world over. Therefore, my colleagues and I tried to preserve all achievements of the past, at the same time adding newer elements. Nonetheless, expanding the exhibition area is not an end in itself, equally important criteria for the exhibition to succeed is customer satisfaction. That is why ITEMF Expo always pays a great deal of attention to additional services offered to the exhibitors. From technical support issues on the venue, to cooperation with companies after the exhibition. Notably, in addition to the press-day for the first time ever, we plan to hold a summit on topical issues of the commercial vehicle industry development too.
Another important area of focus is the synergy achieved between exhibitions like MIMS Automechanika Moscow and Comtrans. Requests were received from across companies, for sending them an offer regarding the participation in both exhibitions. It was particularly the case with the companies associated with components and spare parts production both for cargo and passenger vehicles. MIMS Automechanika Moscow has its special section called Truck Competence aimed at promoting companies and their products in the commercial vehicle industry, and we would like such an idea to be developed within Comtrans. Last but not least, one of the factors that contribute to the success of Comtrans is the ‘The Best Commercial Vehicle of the Year in Russia’ contest. An official award ceremony for winners, traditionally held within the framework of the exhibitions Comtrans making it a one of its kind initiative.
Could you hint at the novelties and innovations that visitors of the Comtrans 2017 expect?
It is often the case that companies prefer to keep a veil of secret ahead of the show when it comes to novelties and innovations. What we know already today is that major Russian OEMs (Kamaz, Gaz Group and Autovaz) will definitely present some new models coming to the market inclusive of some electric vehicles. Scania, MAN and Isuzu are expected to premier for the Russian market too. The press day, which will be on September 04, is complete with press-conferences of all major OEMs. First up will be a press-conference of Uaz, presenting a range of new models. I am confident that after this day, when our press colleagues, journalists and partners enjoy innovations, visitors will be inspired by many products and solutions from a wide number of other companies during the entire exhibition.
With exhibitors from 12 countries, Comtrans is an international show. Apart from Russia, which countries are most represented?
In 2017, Comtrans will be the leading commercial vehicle show not only in Russia and CIS but also in Europe. Traditionally companies from Turkey, Europe, Germany with the official German pavilion this year are well represented. Exhibitors from Asia will be focusing not only on vehicles but also on spare parts and solutions for the commercial vehicle aftermarket this year.
With all the new technologies, internet and worldwide communication possibilities, don’t you think exhibitions in their current traditional format risk being outdated?
Holding exhibitions is one of the channels for product sales and promotion. Of course, our world is changing, and new technologies are being introduced at a fast pace in the exhibition business. In particular, it refers to interactive technologies which transform communication from the real world into a virtual one. This process certainly holds potential in the near term. At the same time, direct and immediate contact among people continues to be the most important channel given that we are all social beings to begin with. In my view, there isn’t any advanced technology, which can replace real-life communication between people. It is an exhibition, which provides an opportunity to get acquainted personally with all new products of the market under one roof, whereby one can gauge current market trends. That apart, one can get a touch and feel of the products in person apart form getting in to the driver’s and passenger’s shoes. This holds the potential to gain valuable insights on the products on display. Meeting opinion leaders at such a forum is always inspirational. Therefore, exhibitions will always have one undeniable advantage – the opportunity of direct, maximally wide and rapid communication between sellers and their customers, on issues which sometimes take weeks or even months to be settled.