Volvo Car is looking to carve out a niche in the global luxury-car arena with its new brand strategy, dubbed “Designed Around You.”

The new plan follows consumer studies suggesting Volvo does not have a strong brand identity compared with top competitors such as BMW, Lexus and Audi.

Volvo’s “Designed Around You” moniker results from studies that will be used to shape future products, says Richard Monturo, vice president-global marketing.

“We’ve been working on refining our branding for quite a while, even before the sale of Volvo from Ford to (China’s) Geely last year,” Monturo tells WardsAuto. “This initiative is about taking our areas of expertise, modernizing them a little bit and seeing what’s open and available in the premium segment for us to stake our claim.”

Although public perception aligns Volvo closely with safety, something the auto maker embraces, Monturo says that is not enough to distinguish the brand.

So Volvo intends to concentrate on styling, with future vehicles having more of a Scandinavian flair. Monturo says the sleek-and-simple designs associated with Sweden have proved popular with other consumer products, citing home furnishings offered by Sweden-based Ikea as an example.

He does not disclose details about the design changes or future vehicles. But Monturo does say the auto maker would like to add excitement to its lineup similar to the sporty Volvo P1800 sold in the 1960s, and hailed its groundbreaking styling.

“We have fond memories of the P1800 years, when there were charismatic cars in our portfolio,” he says.

When the new design strategy emphasizing Volvo’s heritage, was green-lighted by top management, chief designer Peter Horbury was the “happiest person in the room,” Monturo says. “The (strategy) validated a lot of thoughts he was having about how (our vehicles) should look and feel.” Volvo also will seek to improve technology it offers, especially human-machine interface and infotainment systems, which Monturo says will be designed to simplify the driver’s life.

“What we’ve learned about our customers is when they have more money there are more problems,” he says. “The desire to develop and design tech solutions to uncomplicate life is a driver for us.”

By strengthening its styling and technology, Volvo hopes to bring its vehicles up-market. But that does not mean emulating top luxury competitors. “I’ve worked on a lot of luxury brands, and there’s a tendency to chase the German brands and do exactly what they do,” Monturo says.

Volvo’s marketing chief expects design and technology changes will drive sales, but insists the ultimate goal is not to be the No.1 luxury brand in the world. “We’re looking to capture as many customers as possible,” he says. “We want to be in the top five in sales in every segment we do business in.”

Potential for sales growth is strongest in China, Monturo adds. Although upscale brands such as Audi are well-established in the robust market, their popularity principally is among government officials. Younger Chinese car buyers are seeking alternatives, he says.

“Chinese customers are looking for a brand that reflects their individuality. They’re not going for a label.”

bpope@wardsauto.com