Sunday, April 11, 2021

Kiwi Hamish Bennett is the vice-president of product management, Trucks, at Scania Group, building his way up through the organisation over the past 20 years. New Zealand Trucking finds out about his journey from Hamilton to Stockholm – okay, the nearby town of Södertälje, but that doesn’t have the same ring to it – and learns about his role in developing every new Scania truck this century. Hamish Bennett has fond memories of making engine noises while playing with toy trucks as a kid – and he knew his fascination with trucks wasn’t just a phase. Growing up in Huntley and Hamilton (he attended St Paul’s Collegiate in Hamilton), Hamish’s truck obsession was also influenced by his father and role model, Maurice Bennett, who worked for Fuso distributor/dealer Keith Andrews.

While completing an engineering and commerce degree at Auckland University, he was awarded a ‘dream’ three-month scholarship with Scania’s product development team in vehicle dynamics. A three-year offer from Scania at the end of his scholarship was the kickstart to his so-far 20-year career with the Swedish truck-maker. Today, Hamish is in charge of a team shaping the future of truck design and development at Scania. In some capacity, he’s played a role in every new Scania truck design for the past 20 years. There have been plenty of highlights. From ‘living his dream’ of vehicle-testing prototype trucks, Hamish’s role morphed into product strategy and design. “My responsibilities included everything from identifying and setting trends in R&D to customer/market demand and vehicle technology,” he says. With typical project development spanning three to five years, the results of some of Hamish’s more recent work is set to hit New Zealand roads soon — the Scania 770 S-line. This range- topping V8 is his all-time personal favourite Scania truck, too. “It’s the most powerful, factory-built truck engine in production today,” he says proudly.

Photo: Hamish Bennett outside Scania HQ in Sweden with his favourite truck design, the Scania 770 S.

Where to next? Future electrified transport solutions are also at the top of Scania’s agenda, and Hamish has had a hand in the new E-range that’s rolling out in Europe next year. Work is underway to get the range to New Zealand as soon as possible. “New Zealand might be a small market on the global scale for Scania, but it is a very important one,” he says. “It’s quite cool that I also get to hear on a regular basis — all the way over here at Scania HQ — about the impressive journey Scania New Zealand is on. “I know Scania HQ has made significant long-term investments there to grow relationships with Kiwi customers even further and develop additional business opportunities.” Hamish likes to think of the result of his efforts being enjoyed in New Zealand because he hasn’t had many other Kiwi connections during his time at Scania. “I remember, soon after I arrived — in about 2001 — bumping into a Maori guy who was working as a mechanic at Scania HQ. I think he was here as part of his OE, but there’s been no other Kiwis at all since then. “Just Aussies,” he says, “which helps with the banter during rugby season ... depending on results.” Sure, he misses New Zealand’s climate, nature and beaches, and of course his Kiwi family and friends. But with a young family in Sweden, his time away from Scania involves playing taxi driver for his children, tackling DIY projects at home, and tapping into his outdoorsy Kiwi roots by enjoying lots of water sports during the short Scandinavian summer.