Swedish brand Volvo turning a corner

By Liz Dobson

Volvo NZ boss aims for 64pc rise in sales next year, writes Liz Dobson

Volvo NZ's new line-up. From left: The V60, V40 Cross Country D4, Cross Country T5, and the facelift XC60. Photo / Liz Dobson
Volvo NZ's new line-up. From left: The V60, V40 Cross Country D4, Cross Country T5, and the facelift XC60. Photo / Liz Dobson

You have to feel sorry for Volvo New Zealand boss Stephen Kenchington. This year looked like a bumper one thanks to a new product - until supply stopped faster than a pedestrian airbag deploys on one of his vehicles.

In October last year, Kenchington launched the V40 hatchback, adding a new, smaller product to a line-up that was buyer-heavy in the SUV segment and introducing new buyers to his brand.

But the Swedish company, now owned by Chinese company Geely, stopped any celebrations for Kenchington.

The V40 was set to take on Audi's A3, BMW's 1 Series and the all-new A-Class from Mercedes-Benz. The Volvo NZ boss even had a cheeky billboard campaign that poked fun at the German competitors.

In the end they were laughing instead when supply dried up for Kenchington and the A-Class powered ahead in sales.

For all the third quarter of this year, Volvo NZ had no V40s being shipped here from the company's Belgium factory.

"I didn't have any new cars for three months."

Kenchington is now looking at a total of 244 units sold for the calendar year, but his New Year's resolution is a 64 per cent increase.

"I think as a brand, we underperformed for a number of years," Kenchington admitted this week at the New Zealand launch of the V40 hatchback's bigger sibling, the V40 Cross Country.

But Geely is determined to make Volvo a major player in the luxury car market, investing heavily in the brand with an estimated €50 billion ($83 billion) expected to go to the Swedish company.

That covers not only new models of such popular products as the large SUV, XC90, but it's thought the Coupe Concept car may go into limited production, adding a premium sports car to the line-up.

Also in the budget is money for marketing, and that's going to make Kenchington a happier man in 2014.

"We have the backing from the factory to achieve growth," he said.

To fulfil that, Volvo NZ is increasing staff, and the marketing budget is going to double. The New Zealand dealerships will also get makeovers over the coming years, turning them into Volvo Retail Experiences.

Volvo NZ also plans to use the brand's involvement in the V8 Supercars season, especially with Kiwi Scott McLaughlin confirmed as a driver. The factory Volvo S60 V8 Supercar will have its first shake-down test just before the end of this year.

Volvo NZ will be using the involvement of the S60 to attract corporate fleets to the company, this week revealing a refreshed S60 luxury sedan and V60 wagon.

Another fleet the company is aligning with is the Volvo Ocean Race when the yachts arrive in Auckland in early 2015.

"We're hoping to have half a million people through Auckland's Viaduct village during the stopover," says Kenchington.

The company is still a major sponsor of Yachting New Zealand, with its products visible during regattas.

One product that is popular in the sailing community, thanks to its towing capacity, is the XC60, with a mid-size SUV receiving a facelift, with a new hood shape and a wider appearance on the road.

And a wider road appearance is also what Kenchington is after in the coming years.

- NZ Herald

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