STOCKHOLM - Volvo's new President Hans-Olov Olsson wants to re-energize his company as it prepares for dramatic growth in the coming years.
Olsson has invented a term for the process: 'Re-Volvo-lution.'
The term will be used inside and outside the company to redefine the way Volvo employees and customers view the brand. The process started when Olsson took over from former Volvo chief Tuve Johannesson in June.
About 300 of Volvo's top managers from around the world were summoned to headquarters in Gothenburg, Sweden, this month to discuss a new vision for the company. The group will meet again in September and November.
Volvo plans to grow from about 450,000 units annually now to 600,000 by 2004.
Volvo also wants to double profit margins from roughly 3 percent now to 6 percent during the same time period.
Olsson believes employees and dealers will need clearly defined objectives to reach those goals.
Olsson wants Volvo to be seen as a premium brand in the same league as Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz. But Volvo wants to do that on its own terms and not copy the other brands. The leaders will come up with their definition of a premium brand by the end of the summer.
Volvo's employees and dealers will be educated in the company's new values. Volvo will also be looking to recruit new employees who understand those values.
'We're trying to bring a total change in the mindset,' said Olsson, addressing a dinner here last week to mark the launch of Volvo's new S60 sedan, a rival to such cars as the Mercedes-Benz C-class and BMW 3 series.
'There is one customer group that is an untapped resource and Volvo is going to be the one to untap it,' Olsson said. 'That is women. Our industry has been terrible with women.'
Volvo will also be looking to attract other minority groups, both as customers and employees.
The introduction of the S60 was designed to reflect Volvo's new style. Rather than introduce the new sedan at an auto show, Volvo decided to bring 160 automotive journalists from around Europe to Stockholm. A group from the USA gathered simultaneously in New York and 600 others participated via the Internet.
Instead of the loud rock music that normally accompanies new-car rollouts, Volvo introduced the S60 accompanied by a lone cellist onstage, playing theme music from the film Jaws.
Volvo styling chief Peter Horbury then took the stage and referred to the S60 as 'the Volvo that bites' - in keeping with the sedan's aggressive, sporting stance.
Volvo planners have big expectations for the S60. They will make 100,000 units annually during the first full year of production. Job 1 is this week at Volvo's Ghent, Belgium, factory.
Of that total, about 50,000 will go to Europe, 35,000 to the USA, and the rest will be for other markets around the world.
The S60 will go on sale in Europe in October and in November in the USA.
The launch of the S60 casts some uncertainty on the future position for the S40 and V40, which have been updated recently.
The S40 and V40 were conceived as BMW 3 series competitors. But now Volvo is launching the S60 sedan to compete with 3 series, leaving the V40 and S40 without a clear market segment.
Volvo officials say the S40 and V40 will compete with cars such as the VW Passat and Audi A4 - although the A4 is seen as a direct 3 series competitor.
Production volume of the updated S40 and V40 models will be about 160,000 annually at the NedCar plant in Born, the Netherlands. Of those, 105,000 will go to Europe and 35,000 to the USA - and the rest primarily to Asia and South America.
In Europe, about 60 percent of customers will buy the V40 station wagon. In America, which prefers sedans, only 20 percent will buy the wagon.
Volvo will run a pan-European advertising campaign for all the new cars, including the all-wheel-drive Cross Country wagon, also introduced this month.