Once it had completed its stopover in the city of Peter the Great, St Petersburg, the Cape to Cape caravan headed off on the road again towards the Russian capital, where it finally drew up on Thursday 12 March. The following morning, the red Renault Trucks vehicles were on show just a few hundred metres from Red Square, for a sales event attracting many keenly interested officials, RT customers and journalists – at which the words “Na zdorovie tovaritch!” (Good health, comrade!) could be heard all around.
St Petersburg and the stopover there were much appreciated by both drivers and machines. For the drivers, it was an opportunity to explore the city and meet up with about a hundred customers invited by the Renault Trucks subsidiary in Russia. While for the machines, the Kerax were given routine maintenance, and the Sherpas were treated to a more detailed inspection. The Trip-masters were connected and all vehicles were given a thorough cleaning before the first Russian customers arrived.
Once this event was over, Cape to Cape was soon back on the road again, on its way to Moscow. The group of vehicles got off the major highways, taking narrower, snow-covered roads where they encountered many logging trucks, saluting their big brothers from the East.
The final halt before Moscow is Ostachkov, where the retractable tarpaulins are opened, bags unpacked, dinner eaten and everyone is able to get a refreshing night's sleep. Up bright and early the following morning, some discover they have to take a cold shower because they forgot to turn on the water heater in their rooms! Then it’s time for breakfast – with a single dish seeming to be an echo of Soviet frugality! As it leaves, the caravan drives by a group of intrigued and amused schoolchildren – some of them very enthusiastic!
On Thursday evening, the vehicles arrive at the Renault Trucks dealership located in the northern part of the capital to be smartened up before parading in the city centre. Since commercial vehicles are not allowed into the central zone before 10 p.m., the drivers are able to avoid the interminable Moscow traffic jams. Everything is set up for a fresh sales presentation for new customers the following morning.
The next day sees a great celebration that only the most fashionable capitals are able to put on. This presentation of the Cape to Cape expedition and the latest Renault Trucks models for the Russian market takes place in an art gallery. In addition to the French ambassador and his wife, the event is attended by almost 200 people, customers, journalists and Renault Trucks staff responding to the invitation from Guillaume Zimermann, the subsidiary's Director and Igor Davydov, the sales director. Some key customers had crossed half of Russia, from Ekaterinburg, to see the Cape to Cape vehicles and teams for themselves (the Sherpa is always greatly admired!) as well as the latest Renault Trucks models including the Renault Premium Lander 6x4, voted 'Truck of the Year 2008' in Russia.
"We have to continue developing brand awareness," explains Igor Davydov, "and this is also an important means of encouraging potential new dealers to come forward." A further important factor leveraging growth is the large number of Renault Trucks already operating on Russian roads. "It's also very good for aftersales, since it generates regular business for the Department and spare parts, both for the subsidiary and our dealers." Igor Davydov concludes by stressing that, “These are our future customers for new vehicles."
Last year, the subsidiary invoiced 1,517 vehicles, 90% of them from the Heavy Duty range (over 19t). Russia's needs remain huge. Igor Davydov and his teams (which include Mikhaïl, one of the Cape to Cape drivers) are working on a future Kerax 8x8.
On Sunday 15 March, it is time for the caravan to say farewell to the Russian capital. And to keep on pushing south, towards Voronej.