Volvo’s new UK boss has outlined a three-point plan focused on electric cars, boosting online sales and improving dealer profitability – while Brexit is lower down his priority list.
In his first interview since taking over in June, Kristian Elvefors said his first big challenge is to launch Volvo’s first all-electric model, a variant of the XC40, successfully in the UK from next year while exploiting the plug-in hybrid cars that Volvo now have on every bodystyle.
“We are very well placed with electrification and the XC40 will move us into a new, growing segment,” he said.
The XC40 is currently Volvo’s UK best-seller, taking over from the out-of-production V40, and the new plug-in hybrid and battery-electric models are likely to further strengthen the compact SUV’s position in Volvo’s UK line-up.
In the medium term, Volvo UK will work towards the corporate goal of 50% new car sales of electrified cars – hybrids and BEVs – by 2025, which will inevitably mean a bigger share of those models in the UK.
In his first four months in the job, Elvefors has seen how UK consumers are comfortable with online purchasing and sees an opportunity to broaden Volvo sales on the web. “We don’t do Ocado and Amazon in Sweden like you do here,” he said. “That must be an opportunity for us."
However, there is still no firm date to introduce Volvo’s subscription service Care By Volvo to the UK. Care By Volvo bundles all the costs of running a car, including insurance, into a single monthly payment, like a mobile phone contract.
“In Europe, we’re trialling it in Germany and the Netherlands,” he said. “If you can make it work in Germany, you can make it work anywhere. But we have to see how it goes before it comes to the UK.”
Although Elvefors says Volvo is “prepared for Brexit”, he feels that there is enough uncertainty to remain tight-lipped about Volvo’s end-of-year UK sales.
The short-term aim is 60,000 units by 2020 and Volvo already reached 30,000 new car sales in the first half of the year, but a couple of tough months post-Brexit at the end of October, if it happens, could knock the numbers back. “All I can say is that we are happy with our sales volume numbers,” said Elvefors.
Elvefors has switched jobs with Volvo UK’s former boss Jon Wakefield and must now keep UK sales percolating while Wakefield has a chance to move Sweden back ahead of the UK.
Much of Elvefors' perspective on the UK market is framed by his successful stint overseeing Volvo’s Swedish sales – where he increased market share to 20.6% and recovered the company’s market position.
Increasing fleet sales might be a card Elvefors could play. He’s not planning a blitz on daily rentals, but sees the fleet mix in the UK, about 22%, well behind Sweden, where it’s around 72%.
Another approach will be to encourage UK dealers to bring services that they currently outsource in-house. “I want us to capture more of the profits from this sort of business,” Elvefors said.