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IBEX 2017: Volvo Penta VP brings engineer’s approach to sales

Volvo Penta Jens Bering

Jens Bering

TAMPA, Fla. — Jens Bering, the new vice president of marine sales for Volvo Penta of the Americas, brings a different skill set than one might expect.

His background is in engineering, and rather than aggressively pitch products to potential customers, the 50-year-old takes a mellower approach, providing information in response to questions.

“I’ve always been a solutions provider,” he said during an interview Wednesday at the International BoatBuilders’ Exhibition & Conference. “It becomes less selling.”

Bering works with recreational and commercial customers. He said both groups want improved boat management systems, not just engine and drive packages.

“We are moving toward an automotive-style experience,” he said.

That includes Volvo Penta’s car-like dash panel, the Glass Cockpit System, Electronic Vessel Control and the Volvo Penta Interceptor System, which does more than trim a boat.

“It’s a boat behavior system to control the vessel in four different ways — trim, heel, list and ride control,” Bering said.

A 20-year veteran at Volvo Penta, Bering came to the United States from his native Denmark in 1992. Clint Moore, then president of Volvo Penta of the Americas, put Bering into a new position as an application engineer at the Marquis, Carver and Cruisers facility in Wisconsin.

He would work directly with the boat companies to make sure a propulsion system was the best choice for a given boat. The application engineer position evolved into a sales position, as well. The companies would ask Bering which engine he recommended for a new model.

“As it turned out, these companies would use me for product launches,” said Bering.

Volvo Penta has continued the business model. Application engineers are in place at Marquis, Cruisers, Tiara, Rec Boat Holdings, Cobalt, Regal, Monterey, Chaparral and other builders.

“It makes for a really strong product integration,” said Bering. “We qualify the builder for the installation.”

Bering manages a department of 28, and when he looks for a new candidate he seeks someone with an engineering aptitude and an outgoing personality. Most people would not think of an engineer as being outgoing, but Bering is engaging and enjoys sharing information.

“My philosophy is to empower people,” he said. “We will make mistakes, but when we discover the mistakes we will do the right thing.”

For most of his career Bering was a key player in the Volvo Penta IPS propulsion system. He explained that early versions of the pod-drive-based system did not behave until Volvo Penta packaged them with Electronic Vessel Control.

“The electronics made IPS,” said Bering. “They opened the door for the joystick.”

Today the company offers four pod drives, as well as sterndrives, inboards and the Forward Drive for wakesurfing. The company recently launched the D13-1000, its first 1,000-hp diesel engine.

Volvo Penta also recently bought Seven Marine, which makes the industry’s most powerful outboard motors. Bering said Seven Marine will operate as a standalone company and the two will “integrate where we can.”

“Their DNA is about innovation. Our DNA is about innovation,” said Bering.

He said the product line could change, but no details about upcoming Seven Marine products are being released at this time.

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