18 January 2011

VISTA in Central East Europe

After two rounds, teams from Estonia, Slovakia and Poland are leading the way in Central East Europe, in what is one of Volvo Trucks’ fastest growing markets. 173 teams from the region have registered for VISTA 2011, but only fifteen will qualify for the semi final in Verona, Italy, and only three will make it to the World Final in Gothenburg next summer.

Despite being relatively small markets, teams from Estonia and Slovakia are amongst the strongest performers in Central East Europe. Estonia has only nine teams competing in VISTA 2011 yet have two teams in the top three. Team Viru Valge are on top with a near perfect 58 out of 60, while Team Pasta are equal third. To date no Estonian team has made the World Final, but they’ve had plenty of close calls and the feeling is that VISTA 2011 could be the year they finally make it. “In 2007 two teams participated in regional semi final, but did not qualify for the World Final,” says Erki Malkus, VISTA leader for Estonia. “In 2009 Viru Valge took part in the semi finals in Wroclaw, Poland, and reached fourth place, loosing by only 0.6 point to third.”

In second place is team K9 from Slovakia, while Dreamteam, also from Slovakia, are equal third. Slovakian teams have been taking part in VISTA since 1999 but like Estonia, no team has reached the World Final despite a number of near misses. “In VISTA 2009 we had two teams in the semi-finals,” says Pavol Zabák, VISTA leader for Slovakia. “But stage fright, stress and nerves caused some small mistakes. Working in a workshop and in a competition are two different things.”

The Central East Europe region is one of the fastest growing in whole Volvo Trucks organization, encompassing Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Croatia, Hungary, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. In just a few short years, the CEE region has gone from having just over 5% market share in 2003, to over 21% in 2009, making it the fastest growing region in Europe. As of January 2011, the region has expanded to include Albania, Bosnia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Kosovo.

As the headquarters and largest market of Volvo Trucks’ CEE operations, Poland has the largest representation in VISTA 2011 with 82 teams. Not surprisingly seven Polish teams are currently in the top fifteen, and we can expect to see a number of teams in the semi final. One workshop operator, ZHU Józef Skrzypa from the Polish city of Szczecin, has three teams in the top fifteen, and also had a team finish 6th in the VISTA 2009 World Final.

In previous years teams from the Czech republic have performed well: two teams made it to the world final in 2007, and one team made it in 2009. This time they have 17 teams comprised of 66 participants, and their highest ranked team, T-Team, is currently in the top fifteen.

Teams from Lithuania also have a great track record at VISTA competitions, having been represented in the World Final in 2003, 2005 and 2009. For VISTA 2011 they have 16 teams, and if they want to hear the benefits of participating, they need look no further than their VISTA Leader Giedrius Jokubauskas, who was a member of the team that made it to the 2003 World Final “We went on an amazing trip to Iceland for the semi final. First of all you learn new stuff, and become familiar with different aspects of Volvo workshop other than your daily tasks. Secondly you get to meet new people who have the same job as yourself but in other countries. By participating in VISTA I gained additional knowledge and experience which could not have been gained anywhere else or in any other way.”

Round Three ends in mid-February, and fifteen lucky teams from the Central East region will be rewarded with a trip to Verona to take part in the semi finals. But regardless of where those fifteen teams come from, everyone taking part in VISTA 2011, from Estonia to Slovenia, Czech Republic to Latvia, will be better for it.