Sector: LPG

Katarzyna Rutkowska (AC Chairwoman) - constant challenge strategy

The announcement of cooperation between Polish branch of Mitsubishi Motors and AC in terms of fitting STAG autogas systems in brand new Colts is one of the most important trade events this summer. This is the first time ever that Polish-designed and made LPG equipment will be used to convert OEM market cars. We discussed the matter with Ms Katarzyna Rutkowska, the Chairwoman of AC.

gazeo: First of all, congratulations on striking a deal with Mitsubishi Motor Poland. This way, AC is the first Polish company to ever supply autogas systems to brand new cars sold in official dealerships. You have thus ended the monopoly of foreign companies. Where did the idea come from?

Katarzyna Rutkowska, the Board of Directors Chairwoman of AC© ACKatarzyna Rutkowska, the Board of Directors Chairwoman of AC

Katarzyna Rutkowska, the Board of Directors Chairwoman of AC: This is not so much an idea as a natural consequence of the strategy we have been implementing for years. During the long time we have been present on the market – the Polish one and globally – we have established ourselves as a reliable manufacturer and a business partner with integrity, who acts in accordance with clear and firmly established rules. The fact that we are the only Polish company from the autogas field present at the Warsaw Stock Exchange only enhances our image of credibility and stability. We put pressure on ongoing development, high product quality, innovative solutions and technologies, partnership-based business relations and individual approach towards each customer. We act according to these principles and we create our entire market position around them and we see that they mean a lot in the business world. Thanks to all this we are considered natural partners and suppliers for companies such as Mitsubishi Motor Poland. Have we thus broken the reign of foreign companies? We are particularly glad to have established a partnership in our domestic market, but this is not our first OEM contract altogether. We have participated in similar projects in Asia for quite a time now, e. g. with Hyundai. AC should be perceived in global, not just local terms.

What do you consider to have been the greatest challenge in securing the deal with Mitsubishi?

I would not exactly call it a challenge. As a developer, manufacturer and supplier of autogas systems, we have established ourselves as a company who is consistent in all it does. We equally respect all our customers and business partners – we offer products complying with the highest quality and reliability standards and base all our business relations on mutual trust. This is equally true for a huge, multinational company like Mitsubishi Motor and a small installer garage somewhere in a remote part of Poland. Both are our customers and receive products coming from exactly the same assembly lines, both benefit from our individual approach. We realise car manufacturers take a lot of factors into consideration before they strike a deal with an autogas equipment supplier and that is one of the reasons we feel proud that Mitsubishi chose us as their partner for the Polish market. The decision was made on the basis of our experience, outstanding after-sales service, product quality and advanced R&D backup. Our products meet the strictest demands of the largest car manufacturers. The deal with Mitsubishi Motor Poland is just another confirmation of our business credibility and leading position in our domestic autogas systems market.

Will the Mitsubishi contract influence your production plans and development strategy?
The contract is the outcome of our strategy. Our rich experience in the field of autogas systems development and production, together with our strong position in the individual conversions market, allow us to move into OEM markets, i. e. assembly line conversions and 0-kilometre dealer conversions. We look forward to expanding in this field of business. Car manufacturers are very demanding and scutinise their potential partners thoroughly. And even before that, they need to trust the product. This is an impulse to us – we need to constantly develop both the product and the entire manufacturing process. We continuously invest in production and R&D infrastructure. Our latest achievement is our own R&D Centre, which enables our engineers and designers work with the latest technology available and thoroughly test the final products before they are launched.

AC is also an exporter of LPG and CNG systems. What is our market like when compared to foreign ones?
Indeed, we are present in more than 30 markets worldwide and admittedly autogas is growingly popular. Poland has been the European leader in terms of using LPG as automotive fuel for a number of years – over 2,6 million vehicles (out of 18 million vehicles on the roads in total) are autogas-powered these days, which means every car in seven burns the alternative fuel instead of petrol. As far as the number of cars is concerned, only Turkey is ahead of Poland. Without doubt, our market is saturated and mature. Our refuelling infrastructure is well developed with more than 5700 stations across the country, and drivers trust the fuel. Pretty much the same could be said about Turkey, South Korea, Italy, India or Russia. As for other markets, they are still in the blooming and development phase, but there is visible progress and the numbers of LPG-powered vehicles soar. Greece is a case in point here – in 2011 there was an over 100% boost in conversions. The absolute numbers may still be far from impressive (there are relatively few cars and not much fuel is sold), but there is a general trend and drivers start to perceive autogas as the remedy for high prices of conventional fuels and the ongoing economic downturn. As for CNG, unfortunately Poland is still at the start of the road. Compressed natural gas will not catch on until there is a new, better distribution infrastructure. Forecasts said there would be 2% market share for CNG in 2010 and predict a 5% share for 2015. This is not much, especially when you consider South American or Middle East markets, where hundreds of thousands of cars run on CNG. Hopefully, the picture will change thanks to progress in the field of shale gas yield.

Are more contracts between AC and car importers to be expected?
We are determined to develop our business in the field of assembly line and dealer conversions to autogas. Talks with several potential partners are currently underway, although we do not limit ourselves solely to the domestic market, promising as it remains due to unstable, ever-rising conventional fuel prices. Car manufacturers offer more and more autogas-powered models and it is our goal and ambition to make as many as possible of them available with STAG systems. We feel confident about ourselves and our perseverance will ultimately lead us to reaching that goal. Dealer conversions have been our primary focus lately and we see the results – there are tens of dealers across Poland at the moment who fit brand new cars with our LPG systems.

We are looking forward to seeing your plans come true. Best of luck!
Thank you. I would like to take this opportunity and declare that we will do all it takes to show that Polish autogas companies the name of the game today and they need not be ashamed when it comes to cooperating with multinational manufacturers.


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Wojciech Mackiewicz
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