Special Coverage

Paris
Auto Show

PARIS – Volvo Car Corp.’s new CEO is launching a two-pronged initiative to secure the auto maker’s future.

Stefan Jacoby tells Ward’s here at the Paris auto show the Volvo brand needs a clearer focus, while also maintaining a robust product pipeline. And even though one goal helps shape the other, the auto maker must move now.

“You don’t wait,” the former Volkswagen of America Inc. president says, suggesting fierce competition compels Volvo to tackle both goals simultaneously.

His mission for the brand?

“We have to re-sharpen what Volvo stands for,” Jacoby says. “I’m coming from a very brand-oriented group. I believe in brands and I believe in the strength of brands. Volvo has lot of good assets as a brand.

“But we need to define what we will stand for in 10 years, in five years.”

However, don’t expect a hatchet job.

“We will base our strategy on our foundations,” he says. “One of the foundations is safety. There are many things we could add. We could have a more distinguished Scandanavian design. Scandanavian design is very beautiful. It’s very unique.”

Design helped Volvo win a Ward’s Interior of the Year award in 2010 and 2009, for the XC60 cross/utility vehicle and the C30 compact car, respectively.

While Volvo has achieved profitability, its U.S. sales through August lag like-2009 by 12%, according to Ward’s data. To improve, Jacoby tells Ward’s, the auto maker will have to determine “why a customer is not deciding not to buy a car from a competitor.”

On the upside, Jacoby is wowed by engineering talent and overall competence in the company.

“We have a very solid base of good engineers,” he says, adding he is particularly impressed by the efficiencies built into its processes.

“Overall, people are very good, very talented and very dedicated to Volvo.”

As for Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co. Ltd., Volvo’s new owner, Jacoby says he is exploring what the China-based auto maker might be able to contribute to the Swedish company. But he flatly rules out the notion that the two might someday share a distribution network.

“That is nonsense,” he says, adding each has its own distinct customer demographic.

emayne@wardsauto.com