Volvo on the up

Time 3:37 pm, September 23, 2008

033963300_1219925366.jpg‘THERE’S nothing stopping us growing market share. We have 1.6 per cent – what’s to say we can’t get it up to 3 or 4 per cent?’

That’s the word from Volvo’s Product Manager, Chris Wailes. He spoke as the brand celebrated huge increases in like-for-like sales. January-to-June volumes grew by a fifth, to over 21,000 units, and are continuing to do so.

This is down mainly to new trim lines and a simplification of model choice. Leading Wailes to aim for a stable 2 per cent share in the near future, aiming for a sustainable 3 per cent in time. But his goals are higher still.

‘We certainly see growth opportunities if the product is right. We’ve seen this with the C30 – bringing in the R-Design model has led to a massive jump in sales.’

That TV ad, with the white C30, has also brought people flocking to dealers, he says. And while the three-door hatch won’t suit all, that Volvo can offer R-Design S40s and V50s, also in white, has been paying dividends. It was a bold campaign for the maker, but is working; ‘it’s getting people into showrooms. Once there, dealers can do their work.’

Wailes says this part isn’t rocket science. ‘Dealers simply have to listen to what the customer’s telling them.’ A former dealer himself, Wailes knows what it takes to sell cars – to happy, not bamboozled, customers. ‘Just work out what they want.’

So that’s now – what else has Volvo got coming up, that’s big? Well, the XC60 is a vital car. The long-awaited compact SUV is launching into a difficult market with decent environmental credentials. What’s more, Wailes says it’s clinic’d well, with positive feedback from customers.

The car’s safety features are proving particularly enticing, says Wailes – who plans some intriguing ways for dealers to demonstrate this. Take the £1300 Active Cruise Control’s low-speed auto-braking function. ‘Wouldn’t it be great if dealers could demonstrate this in their car park, by getting customers into an XC60, the driving it up to a parked car?’

But there’s product coming through now that’s starting to do the business. ‘The introduction of the 2.0D engine to V70 and S80 is the next big opportunity – this is a big volume potential. Particularly as we’re bringing R-Design to the V70 range, too. It’s a huge opportunity for dealers.’

The lower-end larger-car diesel sector really is of great significance to car makers. One in every two BMW 5-Series is a 520d variant, for example. These two Volvos exploit the big car punch and refinement of modern diesels – while tempting with list prices starting at around the £25k mark.

It won’t be lost on company drivers who take the majority of these cars that both new Volvos emit less than 160g/km of CO2, either…

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But Wailes says there’s much more to the brand than simply tax-saving – and praises dealers for the part they have to play in this. ‘They realise the importance of treating customers well.

‘Remember, it costs a lot more to get a new customer than to retain one – that’s why we pay so much attention to handling any unhappy customers well, too.

‘Once in, Volvo is a nice place to be for customers. And if dealers do what they say they’ll do, there’s no reason for them to look elsewhere.’

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