Ford sources said Odell’s role will involve more than simply stemming losses at the company’s troubled Swedish unit.
“Cost cutting is important, but you need to promote the products that customers want to buy,” said a Ford insider. “Odell understands sales and marketing and he is very interested in the product. The way to profitability is to have the cars the customer wants.”
London-born Odell, 53, will become the first non-Swede to lead Volvo when he replaces Fredrik Arp October 1.
Currently, Odell is chief operating officer of Ford of Europe, a position that won’t be filled when he leaves. The new Volvo CEO has been with Ford for 28 years. He has worked as vice president of sales, marketing and aftersales at Ford of Europe and spent time at Mazda and Jaguar.
Volvo expects its 2008 global sales to be 10 percent down on last year’s total of 457,000, says its chairman, Lewis Booth. Global sales in the first six months dropped 7.8 percent to 218,000.
The company lost $271 million (€187 million) in the first half of this year, swinging from a profit of $3 million for the same period in 2007. For all of 2007, Volvo posted a loss of $164 million.
Hope in Russia
A key issue for Volvo’s is how it will work with other parts of the Ford group. In a statement, Odell said: “Volvo will adopt a more stand-alone approach.” But he also pledged to work toward more joint product development and purchasing.
Volvo has already announced it will cut a shift at its Torslanda factory, near Gothenburg, Sweden, as part of plans to save $700 million (€484 million) this year. Overall it expects to shed 3,000 of its 25,000-person work force this year.
Rumors persist that Ford is preparing Volvo, its last wholly owned foreign brand, for sale.
Odell will also be expected to grow Volvo’s business in developing markets such as China, India and Russia. In Russia, first-half sales soared
40 percent to 12,250, according to the Association of European Businesses in the Russian Federation.