‘Retail man’ Gustafsson takes over Volvo U.S.

on Sep5

Gustafsson: New post Sept. 15

Anders Gustafsson, the man who will take over as CEO of Volvo Cars of North America this month, traces his history with the brand to age 14.

That’s when he began washing cars at the Volvo dealership in Sweden that his family has owned for 45 years.

Gustafsson, 48, will use his dealer insights now to steer a premium brand that is on the upswing in the U.S. market after a decade of questioning and refocusing, and a shift in ownership to China.

“Volvo has tried so many times to reach the premium level and now it is there,” Gustafsson told Automotive News Europe earlier this year. “I am very confident we can stay at this level, but we’re going to have to work even harder to try to exceed what we have already achieved.”

Focusing on enhancing the brand is the next step, says the man Gustafsson replaces, Lex Kerssemakers.

“My successor is very much a retail man,” Kerssemakers said. “He knows exactly what is necessary in a market.”

Kerssemakers, 57, will move up as senior vice president for Volvo’s Europe, Middle East and Africa region, which makes up more than half of the automaker’s global sales.

The changes take effect Sept. 15.

“Now is a good changepoint,” Kerssemakers said of the timing of the management switch. “We’ve outlined our strategy for the U.S. Now it’s about continuing to fine-tune that strategy.”

Kerssemakers has been a powerful influence on Volvo’s North American strategy for 32 months. He was the driving force behind creating Volvo’s first U.S. manufacturing plant in South Carolina that will come on stream next year.

Volvo has been at a competitive disadvantage against other premium import manufacturers who source volume models out of North American plants, including BMW, Lexus, Mercedes-Benz, Infiniti, Acura and Audi.

Kerssemakers: Moving up

Kerssemakers got his start at Volvo in product marketing and strategy, and led Volvo’s product strategy and vehicle line management.

While Volvo has broadened its U.S. appeal with the XC60 and XC90 crossovers, Kerssemakers hasn’t been afraid to experiment with new retail models. One example is the V90 station wagon. It isn’t sold on dealer lots but can be custom-ordered online from Europe and distributed through U.S. retailers.

“We said, ‘Let’s try the online exercise.’ We just wanted to see how it works,” Kerssemakers said earlier in August. “We can’t just continue to push cars at our retailers.”

Gustafsson joined the automaker in 2009, taking over the management of Volvo’s Swedish market. He had been CEO of Hertz Sweden.

Last year, Volvo sold 82,724 vehicles in the U.S., up 47 percent from 2014. Sales through July of this year were down 9.2 percent, but Kerssemakers says volume will pick up this year with improved supply.

“Volvo should sell 150,000 vehicles a year in the U.S. by 2020,” Kerssemakers said. “We’re still on that journey.”



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