"He's a very smart and competent person. He understands the car business," Johnson says. "He's definitely a dealers' president and CEO. He will talk to dealers; he will listen to dealers. He understands what it means to be in a retail marketplace."
Other dealers praised Nicolosi's selection.
"I know Tony very well," says Matthew Haiken, owner of Prestige Volvo in East Hanover, N.J. He called Volvo Car Financial Services "one of the greatest strengths that Volvo has," adding "Tony was key in creating that captive and it allowed us to get more customers approved for financing and have more control over our customers' destiny."
Nicolosi was unavailable for comment. Volvo officials said a permanent CEO will be named later.
Nicolosi faces a huge task to boost Volvo's U.S. sales, which have slumped 7 percent this year through September in a market that is up 8 percent and have gained little ground since the recession. The company has been squeezed by an aging product lineup and expanded offerings from European, U.S. and Asian luxury brands.
"One of our biggest frustrations is the majority of the Volvo dealer body believes in the Volvo Corp. and its core principles and we're willing to invest in our facilities and our team members," Byers' Johnson says. "But Volvo has not held up their end of the bargain with product."
Volvo has freshened the 2014 S60 and S80 sedans and the XC60 and XC70 cross-overs. It will return to the U.S. station wagon market with the V60 early next year after a two-year hiatus, and will launch a redesigned XC90 crossover in 12 months.
The Chinese-owned Swed-ish automaker wants to rebrand itself as it selects a new global advertising agency next month, said Alain Visser, Volvo Car Corp.'s senior vice president for marketing, sales and customer service.
"We want to shock a little bit. We are different. We are a small car company. It's a hell of a difficult job to be differentiated, and Volvo has achieved that, but we've lost a little bit of it," Visser told Automotive News. "We don't have the budget to shout louder than the others so we have to have a very different voice."