10:00 PM | May 25 2020
Volvo Car Australia’s MD talks to CarExpert.com.au
Electrified XC40s, car subscription services, the launch of Polestar and the COVID-19 situation are among the topics as Volvo’s local boss talks to new motoring website CarExpert.
As a 25-year veteran of the Volvo brand, you could say Nick Connor – Volvo Car Australia’s managing director – knows more than a thing or two about the renowned Swedish car maker.
And new Australian motoring website Carexpert.com.au interviewed Nick recently via phone – eager to get his views on how Volvo has transformed since he joined Volvo Cars UK in 1995, how the company is looking after dealers and customers during the COVID-19 situation, and to hear about new Volvos headed this way.
On the current climate...Understandably, the site’s first question to Nick concerned how Volvo and its Australian dealership network was adapting to the current scenario.
“Things are still happening [from a business perspective],” he told CarExpert. “Sales rates are a fraction of where they were before, not surprisingly, but there are still people who need to change their car. Their leases are up, their finance agreements are ended… so there are still dialogues – [and] dealers are very happy to talk to them.
“By and large, the dealers are open. [But] if customers are interested in a test drive, they will deliver the car, [and] effectively sanitise it before it’s handed over to the customers.
“Most of the interaction now is over the phone or on Zoom, they’re doing video walk arounds of cars for people who are interested. For service cars, it’s a question of making sure everything is properly cleansed and disinfected before a car is delivered.”
Volvo Car Australia has registered two consecutive years of record sales, though, while Connor concedes planned growth for 2020 will be affected by COVID-19, he says there are other priorities.
“I think our focus over the next few months has got to be looking after our customers, looking after our dealers, keeping the business going.
“I’d love to get more Volvos on the road here, but I think that’s the wrong focus to have at this moment in time. More than anything else, I’d be very happy if more Australians consider Volvo for their next purchase.
“We’ve done really good work in marketing with the Omtanke campaign we’ve been running, I think people are reassessing what Volvo stands for and the products we have.”
On new models coming...
New products and initiatives are also on the way, even if timings have been affected by the coronavirus situation.
The Volvo XC40, the company’s first-ever compact SUV, has been a huge success story both globally and in Australia. In 2019, it was the country’s best-selling luxury compact SUV.
The range will be bolstered down the track by two models that epitomise Volvo’s industry-leading strategy to move towards a showroom of exclusively electrified cars: the XC40 Recharge Plug-In Hybrid and the XC40 Pure Electric (pictured above).
Connor said he was looking forward to adding the new variants to the range in the near future.
“I’ve been really pleasantly surprised by how well the Australian market has taken to our plug-in hybrids. I think the performance element is as appealing as the environmental element to some purchasers.
“[And] the fully-electric XC40 is a major step forward for us. I’m very excited for when it arrives here. The XC40 has been a huge success here and all around the world.
“It’s a fabulous vehicle, and I think it’s very well suited to Australian preferences. I think that’s definitely a head start, and [with] petrol, plug-in hybrid, or full-electric [variants] I think that’s a really nice offering.”
On the Polestar brand coming to Australia...
CarExpert also asked Nick Connor about the potential for the Volvo Car Group’s electric performance brand Polestar coming to Australia.
Polestar has grown from being a company involved in Volvo’s European motorsport activities to a tuning/performance division before transforming into a standalone brand.
“Polestar have had plans to be a global brand and we’ve been in discussion with the Polestar team about a launch, most likely during the course of next year,” said Connor.
“The Polestar 1 is left-hand-drive only so that’s not going to work here, [so] the Polestar 2 will be the launch car. [Polestars] will be sold as a standalone brand. Service, repair and maintenance will be carried out by the Volvo dealer network – or elements of the Volvo dealer network.
“The thing I like is there’s a clear differentiation between Polestar and the Volvo product. Obviously both Polestar 2 and XC40 are based on the CMA, the Compact Modular Architecture, but the look and feel is very different.”
On the Care by Volvo subscription service...
Connor also told CarExpert that the Care by Volvo subscription service is eventually planned for Australia.
“It’s probably been more successful than even we anticipated [in other markets] – and we want to roll it out here.
“I think the critical thing about Care by Volvo is you’ve got to do it properly. It would be quite easy to roll something out that was a fairly basic subscription service, but we’re very keen to get it right and actually have as much flexibility for the customers as possible.
“That takes a fair bit of work and infrastructure, and we’ve been working on it now for several months.”
On whether Nick believes the Volvo brand has never been stronger...
Asked whether Volvo was now in the best position yet since he started with the company, Connor’s response was unequivocal.
“Absolutely undoubtedly. I think the last 10 years – and we’ve just celebrated 10 years of Geely ownership… I think it’s fair to say there were doubters at the time that thought that a Chinese manufacturer couldn’t effectively own a brand like Volvo, but I think they’ve been completely proven wrong. I think it’s been a transformative 10 years actually.
“We talk about safety, environmental concerns, and quality, but we’ve been talking about those things since 1927. I say to people who say Volvo has suddenly become quite fashionable, or very fashionable, ‘Volvo hasn’t changed. The things we stand for are exactly the same things we’ve always stood for. It’s just that those values have become much more attractive to people than they were 20, 30 years ago.’”
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