Interview with President Massimo Nuti on progress made during this second pandemic year. Performance now back to pre-Covid levels. Companies in Turkey and India doing well, new opportunities in the rail sector. A bright outlook for new products imported into Italy and distributed under exclusive agreements. Growing attentiveness to the environment.

“We’re delighted with the results achieved in 2021. Despite the many challenges still posed by the pandemic, our customers have been able to count on uninterrupted production and service, allowing us to claw back the losses suffered in 2020. Right now, we’re back to 2019 levels on both the Italian and international markets”.

So says Massimo Nuti, President of the Roberto Nuti Group, in his customary end-of-year analysis. The Group – founded by Roberto Nuti, who passed away just recently – will celebrate its 60th anniversary in 2022. It has enjoyed long-standing success on the commercial vehicle components market, especially with its SABO brand shock absorbers and air springs, which are exported to over 90 countries.

So, a good balance sheet despite persistent worldwide uncertainty. It looks like Italy has, at industrial level, bounced back energetically…

“That certainly seems to be the case at the moment. However, inflationary pressure is building as we continue to experience higher energy and raw material costs. Also, a further set of Covid-related restrictions is now being applied. Above all, we mustn’t forget that the pandemic continued to cause grief throughout 2021 and our thoughts are with those who have been affected by the virus and its complications. Covid has generated a great deal of anxiety and fear and has, as one might expect, had a major impact on personal relationships. However, this shouldn’t be used as an excuse to make things difficult as, unfortunately, is now happening in the business world”.

How do you mean?

“I mean that Covid is being used in professional and business contexts to justify delays, poor customer care, undelivered materials and shoddy planning… Hiding behind a global tragedy to justify one’s shortcomings is neither ethical nor professional. Personally, it’s an aspect I find intolerable”.

What, instead, do you think this situation has taught us?

“On the business relations front it’s definitely boosted the use of technologies that, even though they were already available, were used by very few. I don’t just mean working from home. I’m talking about new ways of staying in touch with customers that are more efficient and have less environmental impact. Before Covid, we visited customers frequently, and meetings were brief. This involved time, transport costs and pollution. Of course, face-to-face meetings remain important, but they’re now restricted to key occasions when we need to dedicate plenty of time to the relationship and the details.

The pandemic has also highlighted the importance of sticking together, of teamwork. That applies to both individuals and companies. Our results stem from a team effort in which everyone works together to achieve shared goals. I’m deeply grateful to all our partners and colleagues; by delivering around-the-clock professionalism, they’ve got us through the worst moments of this pandemic and ensured our customers can count on meticulousness and efficiency at all times”.

Talking of deliveries, how badly is the rising cost of raw materials affecting you?

So far we’ve managed things effectively. All the Group companies have handled the situation well; however, prices remain highly volatile and we hope things will stabilise as soon as possible”.

Has any particular product stood out?

“Definitely the Sabo Air Springs. Air springs have been an enormous source of satisfaction. Sabo Suspension System, the Group company that produces air springs in Turkey, have been extremely skilled in managing the huge difficulties the pandemic has generated there. They’ve also proved to be adept at sourcing raw materials, showing a degree of logistical and production efficiency that has generated considerable growth”.

For a Group like yours, with production plants located internationally, this can’t have been easy. Even in 2021, situations varied greatly from country to country.

“Indeed. India had three months of lockdown and the health situation remains challenging. Nevertheless, Sabo Hema Automotive succeeded in the far-from-easy task of resuming shock absorber production while, at the same time, moving the factory to a more suitable location”.

Tell us more.

“The new facility is bigger and more welcoming. Note that we’re talking about a factory that, like all the companies in our Group, operates to European standards in terms of both technology and working conditions. The new headquarters enjoys great visibility, being located in a district where there are numerous automotive businesses. This has already generated new contacts, with OEMs and aftermarket customers keen to establish partnerships. Today Sabo Hema is performing well on the local market for commercial vehicle shock absorbers. Additionally, it’s already hard at work on the railway and motorcycle markets”.

The railway sector is something of a ‘new entry’ to your range…

“Since obtaining the necessary certification at the start of 2021, we’ve been receiving requests at international level. We aim to develop the railway market further by turning not just to OEMs but also those firms to which transport companies entrust maintenance.

During 2020 and 2021 we invested heavily to transfer our 60 years of truck, trailer and bus suspension system know-how to the railway car and agricultural vehicle shock absorber fields. We’ve also strengthened our role as an exclusive importer of new high quality commercial vehicle spare parts into Italy. Our Italian sales network rose to the challenge perfectly, and the range will soon be expanded further.

The global decarbonization effort is relying heavily on the railway sector.

 “It’s a market with a bright outlook and, yes, we also like it because of the environmental aspect. Our Group strives to be as sustainable as possible and improvements in this regard have long been a priority. In 2021, for example, we made further progress on the product packaging front by eliminating plastic from Sabo shock absorber packaging”.