DETROIT -- Volvo Cars of North America, battling U.S. auto sales at quarter-century lows and the uncertainty of its future sale, expects to see monthly increases for each month this quarter, CEO Doug Speck said today.
That would continue the trend set by Volvo's four straight months of year-over-year U.S. sales growth. And those increases should continue in early 2010 because sales plummeted to 27-year lows in the first half of this year.
“I think you've seen, from just purely a volume perspective, our business bottom out and start to go back up,” he said in an interview with Automotive News reporters and editors.
Volvo's sales through September had declined 22 percent, compared with a 27 percent fall industrywide. Most recently, they grew 16 percent last month over September 2008 while industry sales slid 23 percent. Before the recent gains, Volvo sales had declined for 16 straight months.
Ford Motor Co. has been trying to sell the Swedish brand since December. China's Geely Automotive has said its parent plans to bid, although Ford will not confirm whether Geely is a bidder. The Financial Times reported yesterday that a U.S.-led group that includes former Ford executives Michael Dingman and Shamel Rushwin is considering a bid.
Speck declined to give further information about the sale, saying Ford handles the process. He said he only knew about the U.S. consortium story through news reports.
The Volvo sales process has been slowed by the presence of General Motors Co.'s money-losing Saturn, Opel, Hummer and Saab brands on the for-sale list, Speck said.
“This isn't a distressed-asset sale. Volvo has value,” he said, and Ford won't settle for low-ball bids. “We have to go through these other brands to say, ‘Who are the serious buyers?' ”
Speck said he thinks Ford made a smart decision to sell the brand.
“I'm a big believer that you have to do a few things well rather than do a lot of things fair,” he said.
The bulk of Volvo customers don't know Ford owns the brand, Speck said. And when the brand finally changes owners, he said, consumers will only hear the news for a few days.
But if Geely wins out, the U.S. market will see a new experiment.
“I can't tell you if China buys a car company if it's going to affect their ability to succeed because it's never happened before,” Speck said.
Speck said he intends to stay with Volvo under its new owner, but he would not move his wife and two teenage daughters to do so.
The Specks moved when Speck transferred in 2006 from Australia, where he headed Volvo, Jaguar and Land Rover operations. He was dispatched to Volvo's North American headquarters in Irvine, Calif., for a position as executive vice president for U.S. sales and marketing. When Speck became CEO last year, Volvo moved its North American headquarters back to Rockleigh, N.J., where it had been until 2001. Speck's family moved again.
Said Speck: “I don't intend to move them again any time soon.”