Editor's note: An earlier version of this story misstated Gustafsson’s relationship with a Volvo dealership in Sweden. His family has been selling cars through the dealership, but has no ownership stake.
Anders Gustafsson, the man who will take over as CEO of Volvo Cars of North America this month, traces his history with the brand to age 14.
That's when he began washing cars at the Volvo dealership in Sweden.
Gustafsson, 48, will use his dealer insights now to steer a premium brand that is on the upswing in the U.S. market after a decade of questioning and refocusing, and a shift in ownership to China.
"Volvo has tried so many times to reach the premium level and now it is there," Gustafsson told Automotive News Europe earlier this year. "I am very confident we can stay at this level, but we're going to have to work even harder to try to exceed what we have already achieved."
Focusing on enhancing the brand is the next step, says the man Gustafsson replaces, Lex Kerssemakers.
"My successor is very much a retail man," Kerssemakers said. "He knows exactly what is necessary in a market."
Kerssemakers, 57, will move up as senior vice president for Volvo's Europe, Middle East and Africa region, which makes up more than half of the automaker's global sales.
The changes take effect Sept. 15.
"Now is a good changepoint," Kerssemakers said of the timing of the management switch. "We've outlined our strategy for the U.S. Now it's about continuing to fine-tune that strategy."
Kerssemakers has been a powerful influence on Volvo's North American strategy for 32 months. He was the driving force behind creating Volvo's first U.S. manufacturing plant in South Carolina that will come on stream next year.
Volvo has been at a competitive disadvantage against other premium import manufacturers who source volume models out of North American plants, including BMW, Lexus, Mercedes-Benz, Infiniti, Acura and Audi.