Red buses go green
What have been my toughest experience and my happiest experience at Caetano? Funnily enough, my answer to both questions is the same: winning the order to supply zero-emission electric buses to one of the transport operators in London.
London is a highly competitive market and a key battleground for the world’s bus manufacturers, with the Chinese being particularly aggressive. Anyway, we successfully fended off our rivals and secured an order in July 2019. Starting in 2020, there will be thirty-four Caetano electric buses running on two routes in London.
Everyone knows London’s famous red buses. Getting the chance to supply these iconic vehicles is a meaningful win for Caetano. Caetano is already in a strong position for electric buses in its home market, but in the rest of the world it’s only just getting started. A result like this in London is a major selling point; it should be a springboard for launching our electric buses into more global markets.
Winning the order was a challenge. We had to pull together a team with people from different companies in different countries–the battery systems manufacturer in France, the transport operator in the UK, and so on–so we could offer a total package. Unusually for a company director, I was the project manager. That was the CEO’s idea, but once I was put in charge I really took ownership of the project. Everything we were doing was new and, frankly, our first-draft proposal was a bit feeble. The price per vehicle was twice what we ended up proposing.
I visited all our partners and improved our proposal by working through all the issues in a methodical way. Internally, I was a newcomer, so it took time for me to win the trust of the team I was heading. It wasn’t easy. In the end, though, all the back and forth enabled us to put together a good proposal where all the risks had been properly thought through.
Driving the green revolution
What are my long-term goals? Over the next couple of decades, I want Caetano to become a Portuguese company with a global presence. We’re planning a push into Asia. Electric buses in Europe is just a starting point. I want Caetano and Mitsui to play a role in making society greener by combining mobility, infrastructure, energy management and smart city technology. Thanks to its network, Mitsui is able to craft these sorts of broad-based total solutions.
Working in the LNG business made me acutely aware of Japan’s dependence on imported energy. Renewable energy is really taking off right now and Japan needs to figure out effective ways to generate and store it. That means thinking about new forms of infrastructure and drawing on the full range of Mitsui’s strengths. If we do that, we can help set Japan on a new path, boost the country’s global presence and make the world a better place.
This may all sound a bit highfalutin, but, as I said before, this sort of big-picture thinking is what motivates me.