Volvo CEO’s Contract Extended; There’s Still Work to Do

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Sweden’s top automaker, Volvo Car Group, has been owned since 2010 by Zheijiang Geely Holding. That was after a decade of languishing as a subsidiary of Ford, which never quite figured out what to do with Volvo, a problem Geely fixed in 2012 when it named Håkan Samuelsson as Volvo’s chief executive officer.

On Monday, Geely and Volvo announced that Samuelsson’s contract, scheduled to end in 2020, had been extended through 2022. The announcement noted that since Samuelsson’s appointment, “Volvo Cars has undergone a complete transformation. This has established the company as a strong competitor in the premium segment with a completely new range of premium models based on in-house developed platform, powertrain, safety and infotainment technologies.”

In each of the past four years, Volvo has posted record sales, closing out 2017 with global unit sales of 571,577, a 7% year-over-year increase. Net revenue rose nearly 17%.

In a comment from today’s announcement, Samuelsson said:

The industry is changing and so are the expectations of our customers. We need and want to answer those demands. Our course for the coming years is to turn our disruptive ambitions into a concrete reality. Our transformation is not over and in the Volvo story there is a lot more to come.

Last year the company launched its new car subscription service, Care by Volvo, and introduced its new XC40 compact premium sport utility vehicle. Later this year the company plans to open its manufacturing facility in Charleston, South Carolina, initially with 1,500 employees and a goal of around 4,000. The new plant will begin building the company’s S60 sedan and in 2021 will begin building the XC90 premium SUV. Ultimately, Volvo expects to build about 150,000 cars in Charleston and deliver more than 800,000 to worldwide customers.

One area that the company might need to work on is initial quality. In the J.D. Power initial quality survey released in June, Volvo ranked third-worst behind only Land Rover and Jaguar.

Samuelsson said in June that he supports a policy of no tariffs among the United States and the European Union or China on vehicle exports. The Trump administration has rejected a no-tariff proposal on cars from the EU and would certainly never entertain one from China, at least not at this point.