The president of Volvo's marketing organization for Europe will take over Volvo Cars of North America Inc. late this summer, in time for what is expected to be a rapid growth spurt.
Hans-Olov Olsson, president of Market Area Europe for Volvo Car Corp., has a strong background in marketing. On Sept. 1 he will succeed Helge Alten, who set the table for Olsson with a thorough reorganization of the U.S. subsidiary in 1996.
'The type of thing I have done my whole career is to restructure, to enter new markets, to cut costs,' Alten said in a phone interview last week. 'Now the company is in more of a growth mode instead of a restructuring mode.'
Olsson, 56, did a three-year U.S. tour in the mid-1970s as project manager for Volvo Penta of the Americas Inc. in Chesapeake, Va., which makes marine engines.
Volvo is about to introduce new products that are supposed to boost annual U.S. sales volume around 50 percent in the next three to five years. That would be about 130,000 units, compared with 90,894 in 1997.
Alten, 54, left his mark on the North American subsidiary, including a reorganized headquarters and field organization. Alten also made progress toward a dealer arrangement similar to Saturn's that gives Volvo fewer and bigger dealers, and more exclusive dealerships.
Alten's new job is managing director for Volvo Event Management UK, based in Southampton, England. Alten's chief responsibility will be an around-the-world sailing race now called the Volvo Ocean Race. The race was formerly named the Whitbread, after the brewing company that sponsored it.
Volvo recently acquired lead sponsorship. The race takes nine months, and is held every four years.
Alten said he expects to retire after the next race, in 2002.
'I wouldn't call it a promotion, because it's not,' Alten said of his new job. 'But it's a fantastic opportunity for me to combine a hobby with business.'
Sales and revenues increased during Alten's three-year tour of duty in the United States, including an 11 percent gain in U.S. sales in 1997. And the company said its scores on outside dealer attitude surveys improved overall. Nevertheless, some of the changes Alten made were unpopular.
With the advice of management consulting firm McKinsey & Co., Alten eliminated about 120 jobs out of 421 at the U.S. headquarters in Rockleigh, N.J., in 1996. About 70 of those jobs were pushed out to the regions, but about 50 jobs were lost.
Alten defended his record.
'There were steps that needed to be taken, and of course you don't take these kinds of steps with everybody being happy,' he said. 'It is quite clear that some of the smaller dealers and some of the people who had to leave during the restructuring are not happy. But the exclusive dealers and the people who are working here today are pretty happy.'