Network First

Globally and locally the IVECO organisation is undergoing significant changes. In Australia, Ella Letiagina is a key member of the team driving the changes here.

Ella Letiagina came to Australia with her family from Russia four years ago following a successful career in CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) nations, which commenced with the Volkswagen Group in Belarus where she held senior management positions involving product, supply chain and ultimately as Head of Sales.

More recently, Ella worked in Moscow as Head of Network Development and Business Development for Volkswagen at Volkswagen Group Russia. “I was baptised by fire in my Head of Network position because 2014 was a difficult time in Russia as the market was hit by the Crimean annexation crisis,” she says. “New car sales declined by 1.5million vehicles over the next two years.”

Following the move to Australia Ella joined Mitsubishi at its Adelaide Head Office, initially as Network Commercial Manager. Late in 2020 she began searching for some further development in her career after spending 17 years involved with passenger vehicles.

“I was looking for something different,” she recalls. “When this opportunity came up at IVECO as the Head of Network Development I thought maybe this can be a good change.” Ella’s key executive appointment was a move by IVECO to strengthen both its dealer network and the levels of customer satisfaction on offer.

It was an exciting time to join the organisation with its revitalised medium duty Eurocargo, new heavy-duty X-Way line-up as well as the introduction of the new E6 Daily range in early 2021.

“The automobile and truck industries follow similar business models, segments and profit centres including new vehicle sales, aftermarket sales, parts and service and also the end-of-life processes for the re-use and recycling of the parts,” Ella says.

“In trucks, it’s a larger mission because they can bring all their innovation to market much faster, and the impact of these innovations on society and the environmental influence on the planet will be much larger. Don’t think that I underestimate the passenger car market though.”

Buying a car, according to Ella, is an emotional experience – it’s there to see on the excited buyers’ face when the vehicle is delivered, and it exceeds expectations.

“The purchase experience for trucks is definitely more pragmatic but there’s still emotion,” she says. “As a commercial vehicle manufacturer, we can directly influence the success of a business with our products, while also contributing to broader environmental goals.”

In August 2021, Ella’s role was expanded to include Product Management and Marketing to leverage her skills and experience as IVECO transitions globally into the Iveco Group prior to its anticipated spin-off from CNH Industrial in early 2022.

Ella sees IVECO’s ability to locally customise its product line-up – particularly the heavy-duty ranges – as a strategic benefit to the company. “IVECO will keep transforming the business through efficiency, through innovation and the consolidation of our product in the future,” she says.

“A major focus for us is to further grow the capabilities of our design and engineering teams to offer more complex customised manufacturing solutions for our customers. IVECO works with many different markets and customer groups so customising products and providing adjustments to best suit their needs is a key focus, and one that most other brands can’t match.”

Meeting the environmental challenges as the world heads into the mid-21st century is also a priority.

“We’re also increasing our focus on alternative fuels and technologies, and are looking forward to proceeding with innovation projects around hydrogen and other alternative solutions to better capitalise on future market needs,” Ella explains.

“Part of this process will involve collaboration with tertiary institutes and other key stakeholders.” In Europe, IVECO is recognised as a leader in the development of alternative fuel vehicles particularly using natural gas, as well as electric vehicles.

Globally, the brand is also developing hydrogen vehicles as well, promoting further heavy investment in its R&D.

Eventually, the goal is to introduce these solutions into the Australian market, which makes it an exciting period to be involved at the company.

Despite being in the role for less than one year, Ella has already established a strong affinity with the IVECO brand and the wider industry. “The changes which we introduce are mirroring the changes our headquarters introduced in Italy,” she says.

“We have aligned and streamlined our structure to create the sales division and the customer service divisions, and this unites all supportive functions under my leadership. I also now oversee network development, marketing, product management and training.”

In Australia the consolidation of commercial vehicle dealer networks across many brands is a reality, particularly in metropolitan areas due to reasons such as real estate cost.

This typically results in the multi-franchise situation with a shared sales force across different brands. “In these situations, we must be very clear in what we offer and have the model range which meets market needs. We need to be smarter in our training, so our sales force has deep knowledge of the products,” she says.

“We need to be easy to work with and bring simplicity and clarity to all our procedures and systems, including dealer systems. And we must be responsive and a good partner for our customers and dealer network. The rest our product will do.

“With good management – and I trust and believe that we currently have a very strong leadership team – I am absolutely convinced that IVECO is heading in the right direction and will make strong inroads in the Australian market.”