Proactive manager Andrea Piccione is a person with clear ideas on his work, the products he sells and the nautical sector as a whole
by Francesco Michienzi
FOR JUST OVER A YEAR HE HAS BEEN HEAD OF THE MARINE ENGINES DEPARTMENT AT VOLVO PENTA ITALY. The 45-year-old mechanical engineer graduated from Milan Polytechnic University, and speaks three languages: Italian, English and Swedish. He is a man of substance, who always sets realistic targets and is aware of the challenges he has to face every day to succeed in the complex Italian market. We met him at the Volvo Penta offices in Milan.
When did you start doing this job?
I’m a mechanical engineer by trade. I studied at Milan Polytechnic University, and started out in the industry working for German and Swedish companies. I joined Volvo Penta in 2006, to work in customer support and network development. After a few years, I moved into sales, along with Nicola Pomi, and three years later I was given the opportunity to do a five-year placement in product management in Sweden.
How did you find working in Sweden?
Let’s just say it provided me with a great life experience, from both a personal and professional point of view.
A tough challenge for you…
The mentality was different, and I also started to understand the different roles within the company – here we are a single ‘market unit’, while working in product management in Sweden I saw the other side of the equation, so I learnt a lot. It allowed me to assemble a very large network in Sweden, and following commercial shipping at a global level enabled me to expand my vision beyond Italy. I was mostly involved in passenger boats, so I also experienced the whole internal development of demand for hybrid and new technologies.
What impact has your experience in the commercial and industrial sector had on your work in yachting?
I believe that learning how the technical sales process works for products as complex as Volvo Penta’s was crucial for my development, and this knowledge is extremely helpful when it comes to my approach to larger boats. I was a sales project manager, but I was more focused on selling a system and a solution rather than a single product. This is very useful for the new applications on large yachts we’re now introducing in Italy.
Do you like mechanical products?
Very much so – I’m a huge fan of mechanics in general, which naturally stems from my technical background and my work in shipping. Working for a company of this calibre you can’t help but be passionate about the work. I love my job. And the job also involves working with the company’s technical and R&D departments. Precisely – we intercept the demands from the market and push them forward, trying to integrate them into the company.
After your break in commercial shipping you returned to yachts – how did you find the market after your time away?
I found that in some respects it had become more mature – better consolidated and more aware of its position, limits and targets. The market is performing very well as far as we’re concerned.
In the meantime, IPShas cemented its position and become a household name.
Whereas at the start some shipyards were a little unsure about accepting it, it’s now an essential feature. IPS has matured just as Volvo expected. When it was launched in 2004, it had to fight to establish itself against the conventional shaft system. IPS’ successes were its biggest selling point. And using the system for professional applications helped a lot too.
How many units have you sold over the past few years?
We have sold considerably more than 20,000 units. IPS has been a success across the whole panorama of yachts, up to 70/80 feet long.
Which IPS model is selling best at the moment?
Our range goes from the small IPS10 up to the IPS30. They are not really comparable in numerical terms, but if I had to opt for one product, I would go for the IPS30combined with theD13, for boats of 70 feet plus.
After the launch of IPS, the whole concept of easy boating came along, which helped IPS to expand even more.
Easy boating as a concept is in parallel with IPS – the two are complementary. Making a boat accessible goes hand-in-hand with IPS’ technical features. This led to the development of the joystick, easy manoeuvring, and the idea of making the on-board experience pleasant, simple and accessible to all.
You have just signed an agreement with Overmarine for a 33-metre motoryacht – will that be the largest boat you have powered?
Yes, the Gransport 33 will be the largest boat to be powered by quadruple IPS 1350 engines.
How has the superyacht market reacted to this news?
IPS’ value comes from integration, and this applies to the entire range of boats, from small craft through to megayachts. Both shipyards and end users see it as the main added value it offers. Volvo Penta is the only company that can supply a truly integrated system from the propeller to the throttle and the transmission, and this is also the key to entering the megayacht market.
For this type of boat, is the biggest stumbling block for IP Sthe mindset of captains, who tend to be more traditionalist and therefore unsure about using it?
We are engaging with captains, and explaining the advantages of the IPSsystem to them, and what it can offer them as users of the boats representing their owners. In addition, there is also a new generation of captains who appreciate the new system.
We know you’re working on a hybrid system – what new features does it offer?
We will be offering shipyards an integrated hybrid solution that includes transmission, a diesel engine, an electric motor placed between the transmission and the diesel engine, batteries and everything else required in the engine room.
What is your mission at the moment?
To consolidate the results achieved thus far, and maintain constant growth. Last year we made 54 million Euros on the Italian marine market alone.
Volvo Penta is a multinational, and like all Western multinationals it has a code of ethics to follow for managing everything it does. This code of ethics undoubtedly causes problems in a complex market like the Italian one. How do you deal with this?
For me, the code of ethics is the starting point, the conditio sine qua non, as it has been for my entire career. It is the driver of all our commercial activities – I personally, and we as the Volvo Group, are not prepared to compromise on it in any way. While the ethical aspects are a given, we obviously have our own margins of commercial freedom.
The use of diesel is being fought very hard culturally, at all levels. Have you thought about a different way of powering your engines?
The problem with boating is the logistics behind the fuel. To move to gas-powered yachts you need to devise an on-board storage system and, at the same time, a logistics system to supply it, which is no easy matter. We won’t be seeing a development of alternative fuels of this type any time soon, especially in yachting.
(Andrea Piccione – Volvo Penta: a practical approach – Barchemagazine.com – July 2019)