By on August 29, 2017

Volvo Cars' T8 Twin Engine Range - Image: VolvoVolvo has lofty expectations for its presence in the U.S. luxury car market, but the Chinese-owned Swedish automaker is going to rely on a new boss to dramatically elevate the brand’s U.S. volume over the next three years.

Lex Kerssemakers, a Dutchman who’s been in charge of Volvo’s North American region for nearly three years, is being shuffled into the equivalent position as Volvo Cars’ senior vice president for Europe, Middle East, and Africa. It’s essentially a straight-up trade: Anders Gustaffson moves over from his role as senior vice president for Europe/Middle East/Africa to inherit Kerssemakers old job, according to Automotive News.

The new boss overseeing Volvo’s U.S. operations brings a retail-oriented perspective, having held his first job as a 14-year-old at his parents’ Volvo dealer in Sweden. Anders Gustaffson also held a role as CEO of Hertz in Sweden and was the leader of Volvo in its home market, as well.

Gustaffson’s predecessor —also his successor — hasn’t shied away from placing a large amount of pressure on Gustaffson’s shoulders. Through the first seven months of 2017, Volvo’s U.S. sales are down 9 percent, diving three times faster than the industry at large. Yet according to Kerssemakers, “Volvo should sell 150,000 vehicles a year in the U.S. [by 2020],” Automotive News reports.

That’s an 80-percent jump in the next three years. Get to work, Mr. Gustafsson.

The task should be made easier thanks to improved supply stemming from a South Carolina assembly plant that’s due to open in 2018. Moreover, Volvo has shown in the recent past the ability to quickly elevate U.S. sales thanks to a single new model.

Blessed by the second-gen XC90’s late 2015 advent, Volvo sales were 47-percent higher in 2016 than in 2014.

Now Volvo directs its gaze toward the second-gen XC60, which will be responsible for rapidly turning up the wick. Volvo has never managed to sell more than 27,000 XC60s in a single calendar year in the U.S.; topping out at 26,134 in 2015 before losing 22 percent of that volume last year. A handful of competitors have proven capable of selling twice as frequently.

But the gorgeous new XC60, priced from $42,495 (including delivery) and from $57,695 in T8 Inscription form, won’t be left to its own devices. Volvo is feeling very confident about its upcoming XC40, which is designed to challenge the BMW X1, Mercedes-Benz GLA, Audi Q3, and the Benz-based Infiniti QX30.Anders Gustafsson Volvo Senior VP North America - Image: VolvoYet many new Volvo introductions stand little chance of propelling Volvo to its goal of a record 150,000 sales in 2020. “We said, ‘Let’s try the online exercise’; we just wanted to see how it works,” Kerssemakers says, speaking of the V90 wagon’s special-order status. “We can’t just continue to push cars at our retailers.”

Volvo had reported 61 U.S. V90 sales through the end of July. Indeed, Volvo’s cars are a rejected species overall. Sales plunged 37 percent in July and Volvo’s two utility vehicles generated more than two-thirds of the brand’s sales.

Volvo sold nearly 83,000 new vehicles in the U.S. in 2016 — and is on track for 75,000 in 2017 — but hopes to sell 150,000. Incoming senior vice president Anders Gustafsson must surely find the task daunting. But based on an interview earlier this year with Automotive News Europe, Volvo’s Gustafsson takes solace in one belief.

“Volvo has tried so many times to reach the premium level,” Gustafsson says, “and now it is there.”

[Images: Volvo]

Timothy Cain is a contributing analyst at The Truth About Cars and and the founder and former editor of Follow on Twitter @timcaincars.

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29 Comments on “Volvo’s U.S. Sales Are Falling; Company Still Plans to Grow U.S. Sales 80 Percent by 2020...”

  • avatar

    quality problems with the XC90 roll-out burned a lot of early buyers, who were often the die-hard Volvo enthusiasts.

    my brother likes his 2017 XC90 a lot and it’s certainly a good looking vehicle. but he drives <10,000 miles a year and is leasing.

    Good luck if you’re a buyer, plan to own for more than 4 years or buy one off-lease.

  • avatar

    “Yet according to Kerssemakers, “Volvo should sell 150,000 vehicles a year in the U.S. [by 2020],” Automotive News reports.”

    Johann’s long lost brother Lex!

    • 0 avatar

      Maybe within a few, short years, all/most Volvos and all/most Cadillacs (instead of just some) made for the North American market will be assembled in Chinese facilities with 100% (or close to it) Chinese-fabricated component content.


  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    This target is oddly reminiscent of VW’s plans for glory several years ago.

    Volvo has lost its distinction for safety (Subaru has that now, among others), durability (Toyota has that now, among others), and value (they’re not competitively priced, and expensive to repair).

    • 0 avatar

      Volvo’s only distinction these days is that it’s a Chinese automaker. Expect Volvo sales to plummet once the average consumer becomes aware of this fact. Chinese cars aren’t exactly known for safety and durability – at best for their value, but that doesn’t apply to Volvo…

    • 0 avatar

      As little as 5 years ago, Volvo could boast about its superior safety. Remember when Audi, Lexus, and Mercedes got “Poor” in the then-new IIHS small-overlap test, and the S60 was one of the very few “Good” ratings? The “City Safety” crash-avoidance features were also advanced and effective.

      Fast forward 5 years and everyone is getting “Good” in the small-overlap test. A Corolla today has better crash-avoidance features (and STANDARD!) than Volvo did then.

      • 0 avatar

        Sure — everyone “trains for the test” now and the engineering is phenomenal all around. However, I still stand behind the fact that Volvo voluntarily performs all kinds of torture testing on their cars, including things there are no formal tests for.

        Would I trust them purely as the “safety brand”? Not much more than anyone else. But they’ve added a lot of style and efficiency lately, too, so it’s a decent package.

        • 0 avatar

          It’s not all about just getting a “Good” on the IIHS test. Volvo has pioneered systems that reduce internal injures as well. Take a look at the small frontal overlap for a Volvo and then any other car that also gets a “Good” rating. The Volvo deflects energy in a crash away from the driver, as you’ll notice the Volvo glides off to the side in this crash.

          All the other cars exert massive g-forces upon the occupants by crashing HEAD ON and coming to a stop. Volvo’s energy absorbing structure reduces these forces, which deceases the risk of internal injuries associated with such abrupt deceleration.

          Read this:

  • avatar

    3 SUVs / 150,000 = 50,000 annually each – I don’t see it happening that quickly if at all – Caddy, Lincoln, Buick, Alfa, and Jeep are all aiming with renewed vigor at the same slice of the market, while the big 3 Germans aren’t likely to start slacking off on their biggest source of profits.

  • avatar

    Volvo should talk to my wife if it wants to sell more cars. I think Volvo make great cars but if I try and persuade my wife that we should look at buying one the response I get is all too predictable “Volvo make boring cars”. In a way she’s got a point Volvo aren’t exactly known for making the fastest cars or the best offroad vehicles but they are known for making safe cars. Now given we are expecting twins in December and need to buy a new car you’d expect my wife to want a safe family car and you’d be right. It’s just she also wants a car from a well known premium brand and one with 7 seats. Practically speaking I’m only left with one option that fits our budget and that’s the Land Rover Discovery Sport, which is fine because I like it and it’s a safe car.

    So Volvo’s problem in North America is this. It’s brand isn’t strong enough, it’s not making cars that excite anyone and it’s range of SUV’s is not as big as everyone else. Volvo is growing it’s SUV range, so that’s a start. But they need to be better at other stuff. So if I were running Volvo here’s what I’d do. I’d build a Muscle car for America and a sports car for the rest of the world to take on the Porsche 911. If they can persuade me they make cool cars and then can persuade the rest of you then gradually that noise would reach people like my wife and maybe just maybe we would be allowed to buy a Volvo.

    In the meantime I think we will buy an SUV from JLR who now seem to make any kind of SUV you could want (except a Defender).

    • 0 avatar

      lol no

      sorry but volvo should not cater to a buyer like you, or someone who thinks the discovery sport is cool and buys it. they’re boring because of their culture and it influences the design aesthetic. it’s calming and not flashy, it’s egalitarian and warm. in a hectic cold harsh world, it appeals to the scandinavian mind set.

      and american muscle car. the last thing it should do is betray its provenance!

      why would anyone buy the discovery sport? or think it is cool? the ads with beautiful people who look like they hunt foxes and go on safaris? it’s slow with a ford sourced turbo, expensive, and at no price can you get rid of the fixed glass roof that is top-heavy and let’s in sunlight and heat without fresh air. it’s for posers

  • avatar

    I am not an expert on this matter buy any means (although I am one of the B and B). IMO Volvo has sold all the XC90’s they are going to, to the folks who waited 15 years for the new one. They also have sold all the extra high priced stuff to folks who wanted Volvo to have Xtra high priced stuff. Hint.. there weren’t that many.

    I will go ahead and get this out of the way. I love the way the new line of Volvos drive and look. I have tested the S90 and XC90 and look forward to testing the wagon. So far they have wonderful interiors, graceful exterior styling and decent performance overall, although they are fudging on the MPG.

    IF they are honest with themselves they would come to the conclusion just like all of us here have about new Volvos..THey are High priced as HeLl. Who would spend this type of money on a Volvo. And if Lincoln doesn’t watch it they will be in the same boat.

    THere is absolutely nothing in their lineup that should top out over 80 grand. NOTHING.

  • avatar

    I for one think of the XC90 as the Fran Drescher of cars…. looks pretty, sound horrendous. To hear one of these things wheezing away from a stop sign is just as grating on the ears as that laugh coming from Fran on reruns of The Nanny. There is just no way to make a rough running 4 banger sound good.

  • avatar

    Volvo has it fans and sells a decent amount of SUV’s and sold in the past a decent amount of wagons, great seats and very safe but they let their models die on the vine, hopefully that is a thing of the past, as far a high speed models the have them in the polster trim . It will be very hard for them to get top dollar as many volvo shoppers know they are always pretty deep cash on the hood, no idea if they are completive on a lease but with their rivals it would help a ton if they were.

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    Didn’t know Michael J Fox had a clone. Seriously , there’s no way I’d own a complex twin charged powered car a minute outside of factory warranty , especially knowing its hecho in China. Fine for solid state , no way for something with actual moving parts.

  • avatar

    This turbo/supercharged motor is crazy. Who else does this crap. My advice is to lease the thing, never to buy it.

  • avatar

    Nailed it! Too bad they don’t offer an LS-swap version straight from the factory.

  • avatar

    I really want to like Volvo and the S90 and V90 are gorgeous to look at, but they’re just not as refined as they should be for an entry-level luxury car. Acura and Buick do it better.

  • avatar

    In terms of the US, I think we hit peak Volvo under Ford ownership in the early 00s. Its been a decline ever since then. I honestly don’t think in the era of cheap gas the Geely 4-pot lineup is going to be a hit. A Tahoe or Yukon Denali costs as much as a well-equipped XC90 and has twice as many cylinders. An Acura MDX is substantially cheaper and provides 97% of the same experience.

  • avatar
    Steve Jacobs

    Given how thin their dealership network currently is, I can’t see this happening. I live in central California and the two local dealers are no more. This 2 county area is well over a million and the nearest dealer is 47 miles away per the volvo website. Given its less than stellar reliability, they’ll never sell around here.

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