Volvo's U.S. dealers welcomed Ford's buyout last week, for two main reasons:
1. Volvo's 350 U.S. dealers now will be able to tap into Ford Motor Credit Co., the world's largest auto finance company.
2. The Ford merger will give Volvo more products, which will help dealers justify building the exclusive stores Volvo is demanding in most U.S. markets.
'I had almost 100 employees in, and we had a big, 'Welcome Ford' cake, and everything,' said Ray Ciccolo, president of Boston Volvo Village.
'My business managers are very excited about it. Ford Credit is very, very, very strong,' he said. Volvo's captive finance company probably will come under Primus Automotive Financial Services, the Ford Credit arm for non-Ford labels.
Meanwhile, Volvo Cars of North America Inc. will continue its push for exclusive dealerships, including a threat to withhold its latest car, the S80 sedan, from dealers who will not upgrade their dealerships.
That is unpopular with some U.S. and Canadian dealers, including Tom Nemet of Nemet Motors, in Jamaica, N.Y. Nemet said last week he will pursue a complaint against Volvo, which is threatening to terminate him unless he gives Volvo an exclusive store.
But Nemet said he is bullish about the Volvo brand, and the Ford merger. 'Look at what they've done for Jaguar: They left the Jaguar dealers alone; they kept Mike Dale (president of Jaguar Cars), who is a great leader; they improved the quality; they put money behind the company for marketing; they made huge savings in buying components,' Nemet said.
Volvo and Ford said repeatedly last week that Ford acquired the right to use the Volvo brand on 'cars, minivans, sport-utility vehicles and light trucks,' even though today, Volvo offers only sedans and wagons.
Minivans, sport-utilities and Volvo's safety reputation all fit perfectly with Volvo's 'soccer mom' demographics. Those new products would go a long way to help dealers make a business case for an exclusive Volvo store.
Volvo sales in the United States last year were 101,171, up 11.3 percent over 1997.