NEW YORK - Hans-Olov Olsson left his stamp on Volvo Cars North America Inc. on his way to becoming president of Volvo Car Corp. worldwide.
Olsson, 58, speaks softly - one insider describes his calm demeanor as 'Zenlike' - but he is a forceful figure inside Volvo.
He has been charged by parent Ford Motor Co. with boosting worldwide sales by 50 percent, to 600,000 cars by 2005, while also increasing profit margins to the same level as rivals BMW and Mercedes - about 8 percent. Volvo's margin was about 3.7 percent in the last year before being acquired by Ford.
Olsson is driven. He has run a marathon, and he makes time to run or bicycle three times a week, at home or on the road.
Olsson inherited a hot market for European imports when he took over the US and Canada sales subsidiary in September 1998. But that doesn't diminish the fact that Volvo's US sales record was set on his watch - 116,692 in 1999. Olsson's target for 2000 is 145,000 units. By 2004, he said he expects 200,000 units a year in the USA and Canada.
At the office, Olsson probably left his most lasting imprint on Volvo's Internet marketing. He never missed a chance to stress the need to offer customers Internet-based sales and communications.
'The key word is transparency, among the customer, the manufacturer and the dealer,' Olsson said in a phone interview, shortly after he was named to his new job, effective July 1.
Under Olsson, Volvo started requiring its US dealers to buy the company's Volvonet system for Internet marketing, or risk losing dealer incentives.