In 2007, Team Skywalker from Västerås in Sweden became the first ever VISTA world champions. Here is the report from Globetrotter magazine, which was originally published soon after the event.
A feeling of expectation hung in the air when the VISTA competitors arrived at the Volvo Training Centre in Arendal, Göteborg, on 26 June 2007. Twenty-eight teams from 24 countries were both tense and on their toes as they prepared to do battle for the much coveted title of world champions in service skills.
A large number of officials, with “VISTA general” Åke Hansson at their head, made sure the competition ran smoothly throughout the day. Work at the 14 double test stations was characterised by team spirit and intensive concentration, but, after six hours of tightening bolts and nuts on disobedient engines or electrical circuits, Tove Pettersson called the contest to a halt using a fog-horn worthy of a world championship final!
“Absolutely unbelievable! Even if we were confident all day and said that we sensed victory in the air, we didn’t really dare to believe that we would win when there were so many excellent teams in the final,” says Roger Ihrelius, captain of Team Skywalker. “However, as soon as the competition began in the morning, we felt that we were in tune with one another. We were so concentrated on the task ahead and, when things went perfectly at Station 1, it gave us a tremendous boost. Just think – we really are the best team in the whole of the Volvo world, the best of more than three thousand starting teams! The four of us are the best from almost 12,000 competitors!
“In the Nordic countries, people have many years’ experience of competing in VISTA compared with many other countries in different parts of the world, so this perhaps gives us an advantage. At the same time, however, we were regarded as the favourites and that put pressure on us and made us nervous. We have worked really hard for this victory and we each spent at least 40–50 hours of our leisure time on each theoretical round.”
The first theoretical round in October 2006 attracted 11,849 competitors in 3,245 teams from 1,010 dealers in 68 countries. After the third round in February 2007, that number had been reduced to 160 teams in the semi-finals and, when the time came for the final in Göteborg, just 28 teams, with more than 100 competitors from 24 countries on five continents, remained.
While Volvo celebrates its 80th anniversary in 2007, VISTA is celebrating a number of anniversaries – it is 50 years since Volvo held its first competition for mechanics and 30 years since the competition was given the name of VISTA. The people who compete in VISTA are workshop staff – primarily mechanics and parts staff, together with odd members of the sales staff – at Volvo’s truck and bus dealers. In some countries, such as Portugal, virtually all the workshop staff took part. The final takes the form of a full day of practical tests, in which the participants’ ability to collaborate and their knowledge of the Impact information system, which is used by service technicians when they work on service and parts, are decisive factors.
“For the competitors, VISTA is a fantastic, exciting experience,” says the head of VISTA, Åke Hansson. “For Volvo, it is a truly extensive and important training activity. According to our calculations, VISTA 2007 corresponded to 275,000 hours of training, which includes the majority of our global workshop staff.
“VISTA helps to enhance the status of service employees, as well as helping us attract the most talented people to our workshops at a time of fierce competition for skilled workers. Ultimately, it improves quality at the workshops, which benefits our customers. Customer service is an increasingly important competitive parameter and we must quite simply be best.”
VISTA project manager Åke Hansson is also celebrating an anniversary in 2007. “Yes, it is in fact 20 years since I organised VISTA for the first time.” Does the winning team at VISTA 2007 think that the competition will have such repercussions that it will attract even more people to start working at Volvo workshops and improve the status of mechanics? “Absolutely,” the four of them answer in unison. “We shall be quite famous when we return home and young men and women will obviously be keen to follow in our footsteps! The news may well spread in our home town and the surrounding areas and give our dealer, Wist Last och Buss Syd in Västerås, an even better reputation among its customers.
“This is wonderful for us and we would like to take this opportunity to express our admiration for the fantastic way in which VISTA is organised.”