Booth wants Volvo out of 'in-between land'

Chairman cites progress in upgrading image of Swedish car brand

Volvo hopes its new XC60 medium SUV, will play an important role in reversing the Swedish brand’s losses.
LONDON -- Volvo Chairman Lewis Booth said last week that he is making progress repositioning the Swedish brand.

“We’re not quite where we want to be, but we’re getting there,” Booth told a small group of journalists.

Booth, who also is chairman of Ford of Europe, said he is working with Volvo management to make the brand, a division of Ford Motor, more distinctive and a little more premium.

“We have to get Volvo out of this in-between land,” he said.

Booth repeated that Volvo is not for sale. “We’re focused on improving the business,” he said.

Booth said Volvo is not trying to become more like premium-segment leaders Mercedes-Benz, BMW or Audi. The Swedish marque has a definite place in the market but it will not be that of a clone of a German premium brand, he said.

“The company has exactly the brand heritage for today’s needs,” Booth said.

He said safety, traditionally a key selling point for Volvo, can continue to be be a differentiator, “even when most cars get five stars in the Euro- NCAP assessment.”

But he added that the brand needs to pay more attention to environmental features. “We need to build on our safety and our environmental performance,” Booth said.

Hit by rising material costs and the falling dollar, Volvo posted a pretax loss of $151 (€97.3 million) in the first quarter of this year, compared with a profit of $94 million in the same period last year. Revenue was down from $4.6 billion to $4.2 billion.

Not sportier

Booth said Volvo needs to talk more about its safety features. At the Geneva show in March the brand presented its XC60 medium SUV with a new advanced City Safety

The XC60 will play a big role in Volvo’s growth, Booth said. “We’re very encouraged by the reception so far,” he said.

The Volvo chairman also said the automaker’s design language needs to evolve. While Volvo interiors garner industry praise, Booth said there are “some touch points that are not as perfect as they could be.”

There are no plans to move Volvo into a more sporty direction, Booth said. “The Volvo team is very keen to develop the brand in a way that is consistent with its history,” he said.

Said Booth: “We must not try to make Volvo something that it isn’t.” He cited abundant opportunities for the brand “within its core values.”

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