After its U.S. market share fell to the lowest level since 1978, Volvo has put its global product strategy chief in charge of North America and significantly boosted its marketing budget in preparation for an upcoming blitz of new vehicles.
Lex Kerssemakers, a 55-year-old native of the Netherlands, replaces Tony Nicolosi as CEO of Volvo Cars of North America after a 15-month period in which sales continued to fall. Kerssemakers, whose 29 years at Volvo include no prior stints in the U.S., described his immediate task as "very simple and very clear": put the Chinese-owned brand on a path back toward annual U.S. sales of at least 100,000 units.
Last year, it sold just 56,366.
"The revival plan of the U.S. starts now, and it will be very much product and brand driven," Kerssemakers told Automotive News. "With a strong network, a strong brand, strong products and a good financial offer, I'm convinced Volvo will be back on track."
Given Volvo's performance in five years under Zhejiang Geely Holding Group, Kerssemakers' job hardly appears simple. It's one of just two U.S. brands with sales that have declined since 2009, vs. a 58 percent gain for the industry overall.
Volvo was the worst-performing luxury brand in 2014, posting an 8 percent decline from the year before. It finished 2014 with just 0.3 percent of the overall U.S. market, half the share it had a decade ago.
Kerssemakers said he believes the company can reverse its sales slide this year but would not give a specific projection. He also declined to say how much Volvo has raised its marketing budget.