Volvo's CEO Rattles Dealer Network With Statements on Direct Sales

Chris Teague
by Chris Teague

Volvo CEO Jim Rowan wants to sell cars directly to consumers, but his statements and moves in other countries have the automaker’s American dealer network up in arms. Speaking on an earnings call, he expressed frustration with Volvo’s distance from its buyers and said the company plans to learn as much as possible from the new sales model in the U.K. before rolling it out to other countries.

Rowan said, “it seems strange for me coming from the consumer electronics and technology industry that you can sell a product which is $40, $50, $60,000 of value to a customer that you never speak to pre-sales and you never speak to post-sales.” Rowan, CEO of Dyson before reaching Volvo, believes that as vehicles become more connected, the automaker must be part of the conversation with buyers.

Unsurprisingly, dealers aren’t happy with this news. Volvo Retail Advisory Board chair Ernie Norcross said Rowan’s mentality sets the automaker on a head-on collision course with its dealer network. “We do not feel respected or valued as partners with his comments,” Norcross told Automotive News

Though Rowan and many buyers want a direct sales model, U.S. law and automaker-dealer agreements may make it largely impossible. Rowan said it’s not important how consumers buy Volvos, whether at home on a computer or on a dealer’s lot, but he wants the automaker to be involved at every touchpoint along the way. However, he did emphasize the customer buying from Volvo instead of a dealer, even if they’re picking up from the physical location. 

[Image: Volvo]

Become a TTAC insider. Get the latest news, features, TTAC takes, and everything else that gets to the truth about cars first by subscribing to our newsletter.

Chris Teague
Chris Teague

Chris grew up in, under, and around cars, but took the long way around to becoming an automotive writer. After a career in technology consulting and a trip through business school, Chris began writing about the automotive industry as a way to reconnect with his passion and get behind the wheel of a new car every week. He focuses on taking complex industry stories and making them digestible by any reader. Just don’t expect him to stay away from high-mileage Porsches.

More by Chris Teague

Join the conversation
2 of 7 comments
  • Mike Mike on Feb 15, 2023

    At one time I had 5 New model Volvos in my garage and driveway. I was a true advocate for the company. Then you sold out to the Chinese. Prices sky rocketed but value for money did not. I will NEVER buy another Volvo. And trust me when I say, I am the consumer you should be selling too

  • Pixie Dust Pixie Dust on Feb 15, 2023

    I have owned three Volvos and planned to always buy Volvos. No more, I cannot afford nor do I want to pay over $50000 for a car. I would have bought the cross country V60 but not at an inflated price. I will miss Volvo but I'll adjust. BTW, I would NEVER do a subscription to a car, that's a ridiculous idea.

  • Kwik_Shift_Pro4X As much problems as I had with my '96 Chevy Impala SS.....I would love to try one again. I've seen a Dark Cherry Metallic one today and it looked great.
  • Susan O’Neil There is a good reason to keep the Chevrolet Malibu and other 4 door family sedans! You can transport your parents and other somewhat handicapped people comfortably and safety! If someone can stand and pivot you can put them in your car. An armrest in the back seat is appreciated and a handle above the door! Oh…and leather seats so your passenger can slide across the seat! 😊Plus, you can place a full sized wheelchair or walker in the trunk! The car sits a little lower…so it’s doable! I currently have a Ford Fusion and we have a Honda Accord. Our previous cars were Mercury Sables-excellent for transporting handicapped people and equipment! As the population ages-sedans are a very practical choice! POV from a retired handicapped advocate and daughter! 😊
  • Freddie Remember those ads that say "Call your doctor if you still have...after four hours"?You don't need to call your doctor, just get behind the wheel of a CUV. In fact, just look at one.I'm a car guy with finite resources; I can't afford a practical car during the week plus a fun car on the weekend. My solution is my Honda Civic Si 4 door sedan. Maybe yours is a Dodge Charger (a lot of new Chargers are still on dealer lots).
  • Daniel J Interesting in that we have several weeks where the temperature stays below 45 but all weather tires can't be found in a shop anywhere. I guess all seasons are "good enough".
  • Steve Biro For all the talk about sedans vs CUVs and SUVs, I simply can’t bring myself to buy any modern vehicle. And I know it’s only going to get worse.