"Don't want to go about it in a way that will hurt our existing dealer body" body."
A big project for Volvo North America in 2001 is a planned move to California with the other Ford luxury brands of Jaguar, Aston-Martin and Lincoln.
The move coincides with Ford's plan to merge some separate Volvo, Jaguar and Lincoln stores into megastores. Some dealers have expressed concern with the plan, afraid it will reduce exclusiveness of the Volvo brand.
"We need to be careful. We don't want to go about it in a way that will hurt our existing dealer body," says Mark LaNeve, president and CEO of Volvo North America, a Swedish importer owned by Ford Motor Co.
He adds, "We'll merge only where it makes sense. If we have a store where one owner owns different luxury brands, we would rather those brands be Volvo, Lincoln and Jaguar, instead of Volvo, Mercedes and BMW. We still want to have that exclusive brand experience."
With expected sales of 136,000 vehicles in 2000, Volvo Cars of North America, Inc. should break its previous record set last year by 11,000.
The growth is fueled by the introduction in 2000 of three new products - the S60 sedan, the hybrid CrossCountry and the V70 Sportwagon, says Mr. LaNeve.
In January, Volvo is launching a full-scale advertising campaign for the S60 using the traditional media of print and television. Volvo is projecting sales of approximately 40,000 in 2001 for the S60.
Volvo plans to sell 20,000 of its new hybrid vehicle, the CrossCountry, in 2001. However, the vehicle is averaging 2,000 a month since its introduction a couple of months ago.
Mr. LaNeve expects the market to be relatively strong for 2001, with Volvo North America sales reaching 155,000. Although, he says, "the market will be tougher - more competitive with more incentive spending. It is tough to read right now."
Mr. LaNeve says Volvo dealers are talented, and have done great with what has been a limited product line in the past. One of Volvo's concerns is handling the increased product line. `We want to make sure we are selling to different audiences and not cannibalizing within our lineup," explains Mr. LaNeve.