Volvo machines have played a role in ensuring the future of the renowned Portland stone.
The synergy between this Volvo CE customer and his local dealer is key to their combined success.
As dynamite charges are detonated on the edge of a limestone cliff, a muffled boom echoes round the Chaux de la Tour quarry in the Luberon area of south-east France. When the clouds of white dust clear to reveal the newly blasted rock face, it is the cue for a convoy of vehicles to drive down the winding road to the quarry bed.
Leading the procession is a Volvo L180H wheel loader, the operator wearing dark glasses to protect against the dazzling Provençal sun bouncing off the limestone walls.
The quarry is owned by the Belgian industrial group Lhoist, but operated by Sylvestre-Beton, a local company with its origins dating back to 1895. Rudy Sylvestre, 37, runs the family firm – he is the fifth generation to take up the reins. And since the company operates eight quarries in the south of France it is an important customer for both Volvo CE and Volvo Trucks.
Sylvestre recently ordered more than 25 FH500 Volvo trucks as well as 11 Volvo machines – two EC360CNL and one EC460CL tracked excavators and eight new wheel loaders, models L30G, L120H, L150H and L180H.
Although Rudy Sylvestre and local Volvo CE dealer Olivier Marziano have known each other for nearly 15 years, that did not make the deal any easier. They laugh together about the hard bargain driven by Sylvestre.
“We might be smiling today, but it was really hard,” Marziano remembers. “It’s not easy negotiating with Rudy Sylvestre. It lasted a month and a half – coming here every two days – giving demonstrations and trials and with very aggressive competitors.” And then he looks over his shoulder at one of the Volvo machines in the quarry. “But it was worth it – the result is there.”
So what clinched the deal for Sylvestre? “The human relations, the quality of the service and the resale price make them the best machines on the market,” he says simply.
Up to 400,000 tonnes of limestone are extracted on this site annually which puts a lot of pressure on machines and, as they are replaced every five years, the resale value is important.
Marziano is a regular visitor, pointing out: “You have to become a bit of a specialist in your customer’s business.”
He watches as a Volvo excavator scoops up the newly blasted limestone and empties it into a truck to be transported to the crushing machine in a neighboring quarry. The limestone will probably be used in road drainage or reduced to fine calcium carbonate powder for use in pharmaceuticals or toothpaste.
Based in Aix-en-Provence, Olivier Marziano is commercial director of Payant PACA (Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur), one of the largest Volvo CE dealers in France.
The success with the Sylvestre deal is an indication of the energy Marziano has put into building up the Volvo CE market in the region. And, of course, it has been a tough time to do that with the construction business slowing dramatically in France.
Rudy Sylvestre felt the crisis along with everyone else, being forced to sell off part of his cement business. But he says he used the time to prepare for the inevitable upturn.
“It is at your lowest point when you put everything into question, for example, changing equipment. We have invested a lot this year and last year to get more efficient equipment which will save us money on maintenance and fuel costs.”
And now he says he is feeling much more positive. Looking around at the Luberon mountains, he points out some of the famous villages perched on the hillsides, said to be the most beautiful in France, such as Gordes and Lacoste.
“You can’t find a better place to live,” he says. And as for future business plans, he hints at a new project coming up. “We will be buying more machines,” he pauses, and then adds with a smile: “I think they’ll be Volvo.”