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Safety Isn’t Good Enough Anymore, Says Volvo CEO

New products, new owner – and a critical new Chinese market.

by on Sep.27, 2010

Volvo "owns" safety, says VCNA CEO Doug Speck, with technology like the new Pedestrian Protection system. But that's not good enough, he adds.

Few automotive manufacturers have a more clear-cut image than Volvo.  Say, “safety,” and the brand immediately comes to mind.  But in an era when most automakers promise safe products, can Volvo fight back by broadening its own brand image?

That’s what the maker is hoping to do with products like the 2011 S60, a surprisingly stylish and sporty new sedan that also will be the last model Volvo fully develops under its former owner, Ford Motor Co.  Going forward, Volvo will be the Western face of new owner Zhejiang Geely, the ambitious Chinese holding company that hopes to become one of the world’s leading automotive manufacturers.

“This business is too competitive.  You can’t be good at just one thing,” concedes Volvo Cars North America CEO Doug Speck.  “We own safety,” he contends, “but in addition to that we’ll add cool design and fun-to-drive.”

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It will take a number of years for Volvo to revise its image, Speck acknowledges, and the S60 will be the first step in that process.  The sedan targets the largest segment in the luxury car market – and its absence from the maker’s line-up, over the last year, was a major reason why Volvo sales slid 12% for the calendar-year-to-date, even as the rest of the industry began a slow recovery, Speck argues.

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Q&A: Volvo CEO Doug Speck

Life under new management.

by on Apr.21, 2010

Volvo Cars North America CEO Doug Speck: an end to uncertainty.

There are few things more unsettling than uncertainty, but for the last year that was a way of life for the folks at Volvo Cars as they waited to see whether Ford Motor Co. would sell the Swedish brand and, if so, who would buy the company.  The answer came, recently, when Ford completed the sale of Volvo to the ambitious Chinese automaker, Geely.

For the moment, at least, Geely plans to operate its new subsidiary as an effectively independent brand.  But what the long-term plans and prospects are for Volvo remain to be seen.  Nonetheless, the future looks a fair bit brighter than it has for awhile, contends Doug Speck, the head of Volvo Cars North America.

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Speck is staying with Volvo as it switches from U.S. to Chinese ownership, formally terminating his ties to Ford, which he called his corporate home for 26 years.  TheDetroitBureau.com recently caught up with the executive and asked him about the sale and Volvo’s future prospects.

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