DEALER COUNCIL LEADERS

Volvo dealers push execs to improve marketing

Gengras: "We were frustrated."
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Volvo dealers were unhappy with the Swedish brand's slump in 2013 sales and are urging executives to improve and refocus marketing, said the chairman of the Volvo Retail Advisory Board.

"We were frustrated with the sales results of 2013," said Chip Gengras, president of Gengras Motor Cars and owner of two Connecticut stores, Gengras Volvo in East Hartford and Gengras Volvo of Meriden in Meriden.

Volvo's U.S. sales last year fell 10 percent in a market that was up 8 percent. Gengras blames that on insufficient and ineffective marketing and a smaller vehicle range. Volvo has axed several vehicles over the past three years that were developed while it was owned by Ford Motor Co.

The new V60 wagon is going on sale this month, but the aging XC90 cross-over won't be replaced until early 2015.

Dealers, however, are rallying around the new acting CEO, Tony Nicolosi, the former head of Volvo's financial arm, Gengras said. "He has done a great job with Volvo Finance, and he understands the network and highlighted it going forward," Gengras said.

Dealers are also "very encouraged and pleased to see how much focus Sweden has on the U.S," Gengras said.

But they're urging that Volvo marketing return to emphasizing the brand's safety, environmental friend-liness, functionality and "simple Scandinavian design," he said.

"Most retailers will say Volvo creates an emotional connection and that is what makes our cars relevant."

Volvo dealers said last year's challenger ad campaign -- which contrasted the brand with its competition -- didn't work. "Challenger ads are not driving as much consideration as we need," Gengras said.

Volvo started the year with Grey, London as its new global advertising agency. Bodil Eriksson has been named Volvo's new executive vice president for marketing, effective Jan. 15.

You can reach Diana T. Kurylko at dkurylko@crain.com. -- Follow Diana on Twitter


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