Olsson: Volvo man is responsible for all Ford Motor marketing strategy.
"I was moving on to another place in my life," says Olsson, who became Ford Motor's chief marketing officer Sept. 8. "Then I heard that Bill Ford wanted to talk to me."
Olsson, 63, will be responsible for a marketing strategy that supports all of the company's brands. He also was named nonexecutive chairman of Volvo Car Corp.
Bill Ford "wants me to handle strategy for all Ford brands globally," Olsson says. "He was interested in how I was able to cope with maintaining Volvo's brand integrity and Ford's (economies of scale) without compromise. Now, entrepreneurial Volvo can bring something to a mass manufacturer."
Olsson has spent his whole career with Volvo, including stints in distributorships around the world before he took the company's top job in July 2000. But even the confident Olsson is a bit bemused about how his experience can help untangle, for example, Mercury's problems.
"Ford has untapped potential," Olsson says. "It has 100 years of customer dedication and loyalty. I need to put myself in the context of globalization, to see how Ford connects with the market and its customers."
In the United States, Olsson wants to cut incentives sharply. He says they help create "an unsound business case" and "an unhealthy environment."
"I would rather see the U.S. market have a constant 15 million-unit demand than inject it (with incentives) to 16 million or 17 million," Olsson says.
Olsson's new assignment came so suddenly that he is unsure whether he will have to move to Ford Motor's headquarters in Dearborn, Mich. He says he would prefer to maintain his base in Sweden.
"I will spend a lot of time in Dearborn, but I also will be in the rest of the world," he says. "I can live where I want."