Volvo proved how serious it was about adapting the long-standing vehicle ownership model when it created a new position on its top management board in March specifically focused on developing direct business relationships with consumers. Longtime Volvo executive Lex Kerssemakers has the task of combining the best parts of the current model with new ideas that have already raised concerns both inside and outside the automaker. Kerssemakers outlined how he will tackle these challenges in an recent interview with Automotive News Europe Managing Editor Douglas A. Bolduc.
What are you looking forward to most as you take on this newly created position?
The ownership model is changing rapidly. This is changing the way people buy cars and experience cars. And, as you know, change is difficult. It makes us nervous. It makes our retail partners nervous. However, change doesn’t mean that everything is going in one direction. There will be a mixture of solutions.
How will that work?
What we need to do is find the right mix to determine how we are going to take on this challenge together. The good thing is that I’m coming in from the existing world, where we have seen a lot of changes. I’m trying to bring the two worlds together in such a way that we don’t let go of the current system, but we are also very open-minded as an organization about the new system. That will be my job. One of my tasks will be to reduce the nervousness. Our retail partners are wondering what the future will bring. Will they be representing Volvo in the future?
Do you think the launch of Care by Volvo should have been handled differently with your dealers? Would you consider relaunching it?
I don’t think we would have done it any differently because this is a territory where nobody really knows how it works. There is a certain amount of trial and error. We at Volvo have always been as transparent as possible. But there are many aspects to everything. You don’t know what you don’t know, but you need to find out.
Are there questions about this inside Volvo?
Absolutely. It’s the same. People inside the company are asking the same questions as those outside: Is this going to work? Are we going to make money? However, what I’m absolutely convinced about is that if you want to stay ahead of the rest, you need to dare to take bold steps. This is true on the product side, on the marketing side and also when it comes to the changing ownership model. That is what we are doing, and it’s not always comfortable.
How confident are you that this change is the right thing to do?
I believe in this and I’m passionate about it. I want this to succeed because this is how the world will look like in the next 10 to 15 years.
What do you have to do to convince dealers that Care by Volvo can work?
We need to provide tangible results that show it works.
And if you try something new and it doesn’t work?
If it doesn’t work, dare to change. Adapt and move on and try it again. This is a trial-and-error market. We need to find the sweet spot.