Volvo plans a more ethnically diverse dealership network to resemble the cultural makeup of its marketplaces, says Walt Langley, vice president-product marketing for Volvo Cars of North America (VCNA).

“The idea is to augment, not replace,” he says of the initiative.

There now are 350 Volvo stores in North America. VCNA wants to add more points, but in a controlled and limited manner as the company sells more vehicles (135,000 units last year, an estimated 140,000 this year and a projected 200,000 near the end of the decade).

“We are looking at some markets we couldn't go into before because we didn't have the scope of product that we do now,” says Langley.

He anticipates adding Hispanic-American dealers in the Southwest, more Asian-Americans in California and more African-Americans in the Midwest.

“First and foremost, we're looking for the best possible representatives for this brand, regardless of ethnic background,” he says. “But we are looking for diversity to reflect marketplaces.”

Meanwhile, he says existing dealers have invested $158 million in their facilities because they believe in the brand and, accordingly, expect a good return on their investments.

Langley says VCNA wants to bring “vibrancy to the showroom” with modern graphics, smooth traffic flow and an elimination of obstacles.

“What's the purpose of a dealership today?” he says. “Twenty years ago, a lot of customers went to the dealership because it was the only place to get a brochure. You can do that online now.

“A modern dealership should provide a customer experience with an atmosphere of care, conscientiousness and character.”